Otter urges end to sexual harassment amid lawsuits
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and First Lady Lori Otter said Friday they are working to bring awareness to stop sexual assault and harassment and are encouraging Idahoans to also step up in their efforts.
The governor's tweeted statement highlighted the popular "me too" social media campaign —which has allowed men and women to share personal stories of sexual harassment or assault on Twitter and Facebook.
The remarks, however, come at a time when the state faces multiple pending and ongoing sexual harassment lawsuits across state agencies and executive offices.
These accusations include a former Idaho Department of Fish and Game employee alleging that a male supervisor threatened to strangle her with an extension cord, as well as a separate former employee at the Idaho State Controller's Office who maintains she was sexually and racially harassed by a supervisor.
And the state recently settled a lawsuit with a woman who said she was coerced into sex with a detective investigating her in a federal drug case.
Otter's office defended the governor's actions in response to an inquiry by The Associated Press on what specifically the governor plans to do when it comes to stopping harassment and assault.
Otter was asked to lend support to increase public awareness by a local chapter of the National Organization for Women, said Otter's spokesman Jon Hanian.
"Suffice it to say the governor is very concerned any time issues of discrimination or harassment arise in our state, be it at a state agency or anywhere else," said Hanian in an email.
Hanian added that the Republican governor nearly a year ago directed the state's Division of Human Resources to increase public employee training — specifically with a focus on sexual harassment, discrimination and employee retaliation.
This includes increasing the amount of "supervisor academy" training, resources on how employees can have tricky conversations and workshops, said Susan Buxton, who oversees the division.
Buxton recently gave harassment and retaliation training to state controller's employees on Oct. 3 — nearly two weeks after an employee filed a tort claim alleging a supervisor made sexual and racial remarks in front of employees with no consequences from Controller Brandon Woolf.
The controller's office has disputed the claims they condoned the harassment.
"If you are a bystander and you see something, you need to speak up," Buxton said. "Be the solution."
Hanian said the governor could not comment on the pending and ongoing litigation involving the sexual harassment legal challenges.