Sex Harassment in Statehouses Easy to Conceal

Feb 15, 2017


Dan Kirby on the House Floor denying the allegations against him.
Credit KWGS News/State of Oklahoma

A sexual harassment scandal that erupted in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and led to the resignation of Tulsa Representative Dan Kirby is far from an uncommon occurrence in state legislatures.

Sex scandals have roiled at least eight other statehouses in the last few years.

But despite persistent incidents, many legislatures lack formal procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. While corporate America, colleges and government agencies have established processes for investigating complaints, state legislatures remain an often murky domain in which top leaders have broad latitude over how or whether to pursue allegations.

Some legislatures have adopted systems for reviewing and investigating complaints, but at least 10, including Oklahoma's, have none at all.

Experts say that makes legislatures an ideal environment for covering up sexual improprieties.