Monday, December 4, 2017

#TXLEGE: Man engaged in sexual relationship with lobbyist to oversee new "sexual harassment" policy....

"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter,
But war was in his heart;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords."
Psalm 55:21

House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said the new policy would require all House employees and staff to undergo anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training by January 2018. The training can’t be required of individual lawmakers, some of whom were behind the worst behavior recounted to the Tribune. But Geren said House leaders would keep records of who attended the trainings — and that those records would be subject to public information laws.

Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Geren said that in his nine years as chairman of the committee he had received “a few” complaints of harassment.

Those investigations, Geren said, included addressing the complaint with the victims and the person accused of sexual harassment “to determine if there really was an issue" in hopes of resolving it “between those two people.”

Geren’s comments contrast with what he told the Tribune in November, when he refused to discuss the process for handling complaints because he said he had not received any. A request under public information laws for complaints made since 2011 turned up no records.

“There’s nothing to talk about because we don’t have any,” Geren told the Tribune last month. “I don’t deal in ifs. When there’s one I’ll handle it. And that’s it.”

In a phone call, Geren clarified that at Friday's news conference he had been referring to complaints made through an informal process.

Nothing's been in writing, that’s typical in these cases. Women choose to remain anonymous,” he said. “They’ve come forward and gone through the details with me, and I’ve investigated it and we’ve resolved it."

Neither the former nor the newly adopted policy detail whether sexual harassment complaints must be in writing. And it’s unclear whether Geren or others fielding complaints are required to maintain any documentation regarding such complaints or disciplinary action that may have resulted from those complaints.

One former staffer told the Tribune that Geren handled her complaint in 2013. The staffer, who was in her early 20s and working for a House lawmaker at the time, said that another lawmaker repeatedly asked her out. She said he had his chief of staff call her desk phone to get her cellphone number and that the lawmaker would text her, inviting her to his office for drinks or out on a date. She said she always declined or did not respond, but he would approach her around the Capitol asking why she didn’t respond.

She eventually told a friend what was happening, and it got to Geren. The House Administration Committee chairman then called her into his office and, after asking her what had been happening, said he was going to take care of it. The meeting lasted three to four minutes, she said. Soon after, the lawmaker apologized and never called her again, she said.

The staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, reached out to the Tribune after being surprised when reading Geren's comments in November that there had been no official complaints.

“I don’t know if the House Admin keeps records on this,” she said.

Asked about the incident, Geren said he didn't have any comment on past complaints.

"That's confidential, and it stays confidential," he said.

During Friday's hearing, Geren said he was planning to ask House Speaker Joe Straus to create a working group to further review the chamber’s policies and make additional recommendations ahead of the 2019 legislative session. In recent weeks, some lawmakers have suggested the creation of an independent entity to review complaints.

Questions also remain about how members, who ultimately answer to voters back home, could be disciplined if they are found to have sexually harassed someone.

House officials can "address and discipline employees," Geren said, but have less control over disciplinary actions for elected officials when it comes to sexual harassment.
We'll get to the chaser in a moment, but first a few thoughts:
  • A policy requiring "training" is completely useless.  You can do all the "training" in the world.  Unless there are sanctions for bad behavior, nothing will change.
  • Based on everything this author has ever heard about sexual misconduct at the Capitol, the most important sanction, by far, would be loss of committee chairmanships.
    • Note: Especially Calendars.
  • Geren's already had to backtrack from his position last week, but he's still stonewalling over what he actually knows.
  • While we respect victims' need for anonymity, not requiring written complaints is a way to get around the Public Information Act.
  • Any "independent entity" that reviews complaints will have to adjudicate them very quickly to have any teeth.  There need to be immediate legislative consequences if a change of policy is going to mean anything.  If complaints aren't resolved until after the session, you can't do anything except hope the voters decline to rehire the offending member.
That being said, concerning Charlie Geren, CHASER:
On Jan. 10, 2017, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer tweeted a picture of her with long-time boyfriend Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, standing next to the Mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price. The caption read, “Happy to kick off the 85th with two of my favorite peeps.”

More than four months later, Rep. Geren is a driving force for a bill critics say will save the telecommunication giant AT&T hundreds of millions of dollars while taking needed revenue from city coffers in Austin and beyond.

Ellmer has an interest in the company’s success in Geren’s Texas House of Representatives. She holds a contract from AT&T worth up to $99,999 to try and influence lawmakers to vote on issues favorable to AT&T.
In fairness to Geren, he did marry the poor girl following the session.  So Charlie Geren is now merely married to a lobbyist, as opposed to living in sin with one.  But this is the guy the Texas House wants to oversee the creation of a new policy related to sexual misconduct and influence peddling.

Bottom Line: We suppose there's a romantic quality to a corrupt politician finding true love with a skanky lobbyist trading sexual favors for legislative influence, but to allow the politician in question to write a new "sexual harassment" policy seems...shortsighted at best.

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