CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire state representative who complained that a male colleague sent him dozens of messages seeking a personal relationship was told no action would be taken unless he expressly stated his disinterest, according to a review of recent sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the Statehouse.
The complaint, in March 2016, was among about 70 that were identified nationwide when The Associated Press filed records requests in every state seeking information on complaints made against lawmakers since 2008. The New Hampshire House provided information about eight complaints involving six members, but it only had records dating back to 2015, and there is no requirement that records be kept. The Senate said it had no records of such complaints.
In most of the cases involving House lawmakers, men who were accused of inappropriate behavior — touching a female lawmaker’s knee, telling a joke about a brothel, greeting a staffer with “Be still my heart!” — were spoken to by the House chief of staff and the matters were dropped after the lawmakers agreed to stop the behavior. But in two cases, the accused lawmakers weren’t notified of the complaints.
In the case involving the two male lawmakers, a young state representative said he felt uncomfortable about dozens of Facebook messages he had received from an older colleague in the span of about a month. The older lawmaker said he had “mentored many young guys” at the Statehouse and repeatedly asked the younger lawmaker to call him or meet with him. After getting no response, he wrote, “I guess you don’t need me at all. You didn’t respond to anything I wrote last night. To me that is rude. I thought you appreciated my friendship and offer. I hope you will make time to come and see me.”
In a memo, House Chief of Staff Terry Pfaff said he reviewed the messages and noted that the younger lawmaker had not explicitly told his colleague to stop contacting him.
“I advised that if (the lawmaker) does contact him again, he needs to tell him he is not interested in any further communication. If that is unsuccessful, we would take the necessary next steps to resolve the situation,” wrote Pfaff, who did not respond to an interview request Wednesday.
In another case, a lawmaker was accused in 2015 of calling the then-mayor of Nashua a vulgar name at a legislative luncheon. He also was accused of making lewd comments to female lobbyists, invading their personal space and asking them on dates. The women said the behavior made them reluctant to appear before the committee on which he sat, but nothing in the file indicates House officials ever confronted him with the allegations.
A ninth complaint came in December, after the AP’s records request, and involved a female staffer who said a lawmaker had greeted her with a “friendly hug,” as he had done in the past.
“However, she now feels even a friendly hug is inappropriate in the workplace in light of the heightened awareness and recent national focus on sexual harassment,” Pfaff wrote. He spoke to the lawmaker, who said he understood the need for more sensitivity and would refrain from hugging her again.
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