SEN. WILSON WAS A CONVENIENT DISTRACTION FROM WESTLAKE
On June 15, 2017, Sen. David Wilson engaged in what amounted to a verbal dispute with an aide who stood at the door of the House Speaker’s Chambers in Alaska’s Capitol.
Behind the door, a caucus meeting was being held, with loud music playing.
Wilson pretended to record the music through the door. The aide told him to move along. It all happened in a few short seconds in full view of at least two members of the media, including Liz Raines of KTVA, and James Brooks of the Juneau Empire. Other people were in the hall, as they are during sessions.
Over the course of several months, a whisper campaign started from the Democratic side of the aisle, and Wilson, a Republican, was being accused of sexually harassing the aide. It was all done via rumor — no complaint has ever been filed against Wilson in this matter. No complaint needed to be filed, as the media would provide death by a thousand cuts.
After the encounter, the Speaker’s legislative aide appeared to want nothing to do with the allegations, and neither she nor the Speaker filed a complaint.
They also didn’t deny the rumors.
By fall, two members of the media reported that Wilson had placed a camera-phone under the skirt of the aide, and that rumor took off like a rocket.
Those reporters, James Brooks of the Juneau Empire, and Liz Raines of KTVA, went on record.
Brooks was quoted by Raines in her story: “What I saw was David Wilson, Sen. Wilson, as I remember it, approaching the door and appearing to listen in or act like he was listening in. I couldn’t hear any conversations or I don’t remember them. At that point, a staffer came up and physically stood in front of the door and blocked him from coming up. At that point, he took his cell phone and appeared to press it against the door between the staffer’s legs. It didn’t seem like there was anything malicious in it. It came and went pretty quickly.”
Raines had given her account to Senate President Pete Kelly and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon.
BUT IT DIDN’T HAPPEN LIKE THAT
We now know that the truth eventually got on its shoes and tried to catch up with the rumor.
The official report, released this week, debunks the reporters’ account. Skiff Lobaugh, in charge of personnel for the Legislative Affairs Agency, reviewed the video tape of the hallway encounter and described it this way as he put to rest the false allegations:
- Senator Wilson was in front of the Speaker’s Office talking with HSE on June 15, 2017.
- HSE moved to stand between Senator Wilson and the door to the Speaker’s Office.
- Senator Wilson took out what appears to be a cellphone.
- Senator Wilson lowered the cellphone to a height level with the hemline of HSE skirt, at a distance of about one foot to two feet away from the skirt.
- Senator Wilson did not physically touch HSE or her skirt with his hand or his cellphone.
- The cellphone was angled towards both the HSE’s skirt and the door of the Speaker’s Office The door was directly behind the HSE. Senator Wilson was looking at the phone at this time, not at HSE or the door.
- The cellphone was at skirt level for four seconds. The cellphone was lowered at 4:58:19 pm and raised at 4:58:23 pm.
- Something was said, and Senator Wilson left the area. He headed towards the Senate side of the Capitol.
EDGMON LET LEDOUX DO HIS DIRTY WORK
Speaker Edgmon allowed Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, the Rules Committee chair, to be the attack dog, and she was eager:
“The Senate needs to figure out what to do with this guy,” said LeDoux on camera, with righteous indignation, irritated that Senate President Pete Kelly had called for a review and strengthening of harassment policies. That was going to be her play, and Kelly messed up her plans to shame Wilson and the Senate leadership.
“It’s one thing to write letters about this, but right now, the Senate is protecting exactly a person who did that, and I am referring to Sen. David Wilson, you know, the guy who hit the reporter, who is alleged to have stuck a telephone between a staffer’s legs,” LeDoux told reporter Raines, who continued to report on the story to which she had become central.
At the time, it seemed Wilson didn’t stand a chance against the account of the reporters.
LEDOUX CONTINUES ATTACK
Rep. LeDoux took over the lead role in the attack against Wilson, while Speaker Edgmon and Majority Leader Tuck remained silent for months:
“They’ve [the Senate leadership] sent a letter [to ask for strengthening policies], but they haven’t bothered to do anything when one of their own members apparently acted inappropriately. It’s one thing to send letters; it’s another thing to do something,” Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux told the Empire.
Her idea of doing something was to continue to attack Wilson.
“In deference to the victim — I’m not going to mention the victim’s name — but there have been rumors in this building about an incident which occurred … in June involving David Wilson, Sen. Wilson,” LeDoux continued, as she played judge and jury, trying Sen. Wilson in the court of public opinion. She had a victim card, even if there was no victim.
The media was a willing partner. The House Democrats, with LeDoux in front, played them like a fiddle.
But then, something happened that the Democrats perhaps did not see coming: Legislative aide Olivia Garrett had had enough.
EDGMON, TUCK, KAWASAKI WERE SITTING ON A SECRET
While Sen. Wilson fought for his reputation, repeatedly denying allegations, Speaker Edgmon and Tuck knew something that Republicans in the Senate and House didn’t know:
Months earlier, Garrett, an aide to Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, had lodged a complaint against Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue.
Garrett in early March had gone to Majority Leader Tuck and told him of the harassment she had been subjected to by Westlake.
She asked what she should do. Tuck told her to write a letter detailing the complaint. On March 13, she finalized the letter to Edgmon and Tuck, gave the letter to Tuck, and then she waited.
Nothing ever came of it. April, May, June, and July went by. The Democrats were ginning up accusations against Sen. Wilson, fueling the media with rumors, and nothing was being done about her actual complaint. She was ignored.
By August, Garrett quit her job. Still no action was taken. In early December, she went public with her accusations.
It’s highly likely that at least three members of the Legislature knew of Garrett’s complaint back in March: Chris Tuck most surely, as he had coached her on how to write the letter, and had received the letter from her; Speaker Edgmon, who has admitted he knew of the complaint in March and was addressed in the letter. It’s also just as plausible that Rep. LeDoux knew.
And then there was Rep. Scott Kawasaki, who was Garrett’s supervisor.
Kawasaki has his own trail of harassment rumors behind him, going back years — taking place in the Capitol and in bars in downtown Juneau.
Surely Kawasaki knew that Garrett was filing a complaint, and yet he, too, remained silent, not advocating for justice for either Garrett or the accused, Rep. Westake.
Edgmon, Tuck, and LeDoux have not apologized to Sen. Wilson for allowing LeDoux to run roughshod over truth and justice. Neither have they apologized to legislative aide Olivia Garrett for ignoring her complaint. Kawasaki has all but disappeared from the public eye.
There appears to be no internal mechanism for bringing charges against the House leadership for complicity and possible collusion in allowing Rep. Westlake to continue harassing women in the Legislature for months after the complaint was filed. This isn’t something Legislative Affairs Agency is likely to do.
History tells us that those in power are not able to investigate themselves for wrongdoing. Who, then, will ask House Speaker Edgmon, House Majority Leader Tuck, Rules Chair LeDoux, and Rep. Kawasaki to take an oath and give a sworn statement about their actions?
Did these House players know of real harassment, and keep silent, while allowing unfounded and ugly accusations to become very public and drawn-out against a member of the Senate? The public may never know.