November 27, 2017

State Rep ‘witnessed instances of harassment’ in Roundhouse

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New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

One state representative says the Legislature needs to do more to address sexual harassment.

Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, wrote a letter to leadership in both the House and Senate, saying there is an “anything-goes” culture in the Roundhouse. She described “deliberate, often serial, offensive actions intended to intimidate, humiliate, or coerce” in the Roundhouse.

State Rep. Kelly Fajardo

She said that she has “personally experienced harassment in her time as a legislator.”

“I have also witnessed instances of harassment where colleagues and lobbyists have been subject to repeated profane comments and innuendo,” Fajardo wrote. “I heard stories of sickening quid pro quo propositions where legislators offered political support in exchange for sexual favors.” Fajardo did not name who harassed her or others.

Fajardo outlined suggestions to improve addressing and punishing sexual harassment. These included “expanding the policy to protect lobbyists, vendors, visitors, or other outside parties” and strengthening the protections against retaliation for those who report sexual harassment.

She described the current retaliation protections as “toothless and unenforceable.”

NM Political Report asked for comment from leadership in the House and Senate over the weekend and Monday morning but did not receive any before publication.

Legislators have not received any sexual harassment training since 2004—before many current legislators were even elected.

Last week, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said her office would provide voluntary sexual harassment training to lobbyists. In New Mexico’s system of a volunteer, non-salaried Legislature, highly paid lobbyists can sometimes wield more power than some individual legislators.

This all comes in the wake of newfound attention on sexual harassment after investigative stories about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, revelations about Alabama congressional candidate Ray Moore, and calls for investigations into past harassment by Sen. Al Franken and a reported settlement for sexual harassment by Rep. John Conyers.

 

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