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Alaska lawmaker refuses to quit amid claims of misconduct by 7 women

Alaska lawmaker refuses to quit amid claims of misconduct by 7 women
From CBC - December 13, 2017

An Alaska lawmaker who has been accused byseveral women of inappropriate behaviour refused to resign on Tuesday amid calls for him to leave his post from leaders of theHouse majority and the head of the state Democratic Party.

State Rep. Dean Westlake, a Democrat, who is recovering from heart surgery,said he sought the counsel of friends, family, Native leaders,eldersand God when making his decision to remain in office. Heannounced his decision in a statement, and was confirmed by his staff.

"I want to once again apologize to any woman whom I have madeuncomfortable with either my actions or words. I never intended to hurt anyone, but I understand now that I have. I am truly sorry for that, and I want to thank anyone who came forward. Doing so required strength and bravery," he said.

No one from the House majority was able to comment Tuesdayevening, and a message left with the state Democratic party was notimmediately returned.

He vowed to become an ally and supporter of women moving forward.

"I am committed to being better and to changing my behaviour. I will learn from this experience," he said.

His announcement came after a former legislative aide, OliviaGarrett, complained last spring to House leadership about two instances of unwelcome physical contact from the Democrat at work-related functions outside the Capitol.

Garrett decided to go public after she said no one informed her how the matter was handled.

6 more women come forward

Six other female aides then came forward to accuse Westlake ofacting inappropriately toward them or making them feel
uncomfortable, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday. The papersaid those women asked not to be identified.

Garrett, who did not work for Westlake, told The Associated Presson Friday that she recently filed a human resources complaint against Westlake and said it was being investigated.

"These allegations have become a confidential personnel matter,and in respecting the process I cannot discuss the details," Westlake said.

Garrett initially complained last March in a letter to HouseSpeaker Bryce Edgmon and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck.

She provided the AP with a copy of a letter, in which she detailsthe physical contact, including one incident in which she says Westlake grabbed her buttocks.

Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, said he spoke with Westlakeafter receiving the complaint in March. Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat,declined to comment on the matter to the AP, saying it was apersonnel issue.

Calls for resignation

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