Schaufler disciplined by House leadership after allegations he groped woman at AFL-CIO convention

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) has been stripped of his co-chairmanship of and membership in the House Business & Labor Committee after allegations that he grabbed a woman's breast during the recent Oregon AFL-CIO convention. Update, Sat 9:30 a.m.: Rep. Schaufler has now responded to the allegations. See below.

Willamette Week's Nigel Jaquiss initially reported the story last night:

AFL-CIO spokeswoman Elana Guiney tells WW that on Monday evening Sept. 26, after the day's convention program events had ended, several witnesses saw Schaufler make an unwanted advance to a female employee of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

"It is my understanding of the incident that he grabbed her breast," Guiney says.

Reached this afternoon, Schaufler denied he grabbed the staffer's breast or made an unwanted advance. "That is categorically untrue," Schaufler told WW. "That is just not true. That is all I will say."

Brad Avakian is the commissioner at BOLI. Here's what he told WW:

"I spent time that evening talking with the person who was harmed about what had happened and how she was feeling about it," Avakian says. "She was upset."

Avakian says the woman felt uncomfortable with the prospect of running into Schaufler again.

"The next morning, I called [AFL-CIO President] Tom Chamberlain to let him know that something had occurred and I believed it was important, out of respect for the person who was harmed, that she and Rep. Schaufler not have to be in the same place together at the convention," Avakian says. " I suggested that Rep. Schaufler should go home that morning. Tom said he would try and find Rep. Schaufler and talk with him."

Schaufler left the convention, which Avakian says was the least he could do.

"His behavior was inappropriate, and particularly so for a public official," Avakian says. "My first concern was and still is looking out for the person who was harmed. But there should be consequences for [Schaufler's] behavior."

This afternoon, those consequences have arrived. According to the O's Harry Esteve:

The speakers issued a terse memo minutes ago to Ramona Kenady, chief clerk of the House:

"Effective immediately, we are making the following committee change: House Committee on Business and Labor. Discharge Representative Mike Schaufler."

Minutes later, Roblan, a Democrat, released this statement:

"Last week an incident occurred involving Representative Mike Schaufler. After personally investigating the incident, including having several conversations with those involved, I have determined that the strongest course of action available to me is to remove Rep. Schaufler as both chair and as a member of the House Business and Labor Committee. I am taking this action immediately to show how seriously I view this incident."

Schaufler is a state legislator who defines his own success by his ability to create jobs and fight for blue-collar workers.

Damaged relationships with the state labor commissioner, the leadership of organized labor, and House leadership - and the loss of his post on Business & Labor - raise strong questions about Schaufler's ability to continue serving effectively at the Legislature.

Stay tuned.

Update, Sat. 9:30 a.m.: Rep. Schaufler has responded in a statement (via the Oregonian), saying that he had "no sexual intent" and describing the incident as nothing more than placing a sticker on the woman's chest. Full statement on the jump.

For my sake, I find it hard to believe that this incident would have taken on the magnitude that it has if it were nothing more than an errant placement of a campaign sticker.

Schaufler's full statement:

On Sept. 26 a campaign worker and colleague of mine stuck a campaign sticker on my chest without my permission. I reacted by taking the sticker off of my chest and sticking it on her chest. In hindsight I wish I had simply removed the sticker from my chest and reminded my colleague that I did not support that candidate.

My knee jerk response had no sexual intent and was not any kind of sexual advance. I am well aware of the social, physical and legal differences between a man's chest and a woman's.

My reaction was instantaneous, not well thought out and certainly meant no harm. It was in reaction to what was no more than innocent horse play on my colleague's part.

I apologized to my colleague that same evening. Her and I have had a friendly and professional relationship for years that I hope we can continue.

I know she meant me no harm. I hope she can believe the same of me.

I have refrained from using my colleague's name here out of sensitivity to her.

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    Given the intensity of the comments on Carla’s post about who did and didn’t defend David Wu. I’m struck by the utter silence on this one. What’s that about, folks? While the woman Schauffler is alleged to have abused has not filed criminal charges at this point, the sanctions imposed by leadership and the press accounts of the incident appear very credible. I’d have thought that by now there’d be scads of comments calling on Schauffler to resign – and not simply based on whether he can be effective, but whether you want someone who displays this kind of conduct in office.

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    It is also possible that the dearth of comments is due to this being, at least so far, a one-time incident. I do not mean to minimize the seriousness of the accusations, if proven true.

    The scandal with Wu was after years and years of a pattern of behavior that had been covered up by a complicit staff and other accessories after the fact in DPO and the media. Finally the story got so big a lot of people started paying attention.

    Unless a lot more incidents and behavior come out, that is the key difference between the two stories.

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      Ken - I have no idea whether this is a "one-time incident," since for all I know there have been others. But it is now a very highly publicized and shocking one, and I would hope our standards aren't such that it requires years of similar incidents for abusers to be removed from office if that's in fact what happened here.

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        I agree. I was just pointing out the difference in the noise level.

        We also don't know that it isn't a one-time, and may be the peccadillo described above about placing a sticker on the woman's chest. A rush to judgement is inappropriate.

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    I'm not sure I would call it "stunned" silence.

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    Not that it changes the substance of the complaint, but does it seem strange to anyone else that the victim in this case was originally identified simply as a BOLI employee and now apparently it appears that she was on leave from that job to work for the Avakian for Congress campaign?

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      No, not really.

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      Jack, I believe the phrase you're looking for was "volunteering on her own time."

      And no, it's not strange.

      Also, not relevant. Doesn't matter who you are, or where you work, or what you're doing with your free time, you should be safe from people grabbing at your private parts.

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        Which is why my opening words were "Not that it changes the substance of the complaint . . ."

        But while it isn't relevant to the complaint or the conduct, it is curious to me that the media didn't initially report that Schauffler was accused of groping an Avakian campaign volunteer but that he groped a BOLI employee.

        If she was an Avakian campaign volunteer whose day job was working for ODOT, how do you suppose they would have described her? And how should they have described her?

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          What exactly is your point? She is both a BOLI employee and a campaign volunteer, it's not like either title is inaccurate. They were at a labor convention, which could be relevant to both of her roles and she easily could have been there in either capacity. Reporters probably assumed she was there for BOLI before realizing she was volunteering for the campaign. It's not like they called her an "avid skiing enthusiast" or something that had nothing to do with the context of the event.

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            Go back and read the original Willamette Week story linked above and see if it doesn't seem like whoever tipped them off about this story (which they posted Friday about an event that occured Monday night) and see if it doesn't seem like great pains were taken NOT to explain that the victim was there as a campaign worker/volunteer.

            I was particularly intrigued by this paragraph: "Avakian, whose agency is responsible for policing workplace conduct, finds himself in the unusual position of having to address the alleged harassment of one of his own employees. He says he consulted BOLI staff about whether Schaufler's warranted a BOLI complaint. He says that because the female staffer was there on her own time in a volunteer capacity, BOLI does not have jurisdiction over the incident."

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              Even if that were the case..which I'm not seeing...I don't understand why that point matters.

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                You do realize that the statement "because the female staffer was there on her own time in a volunteer capacity, BOLI does not have jurisdiction over the incident" is false, right?

                And I assume you also know that BOLI would have had no jurisdiction over Rep. Schauffler and what he purportedly did in any event, right?

                Since the key to BOLI's jurisdiction in sexual harassment cases is employment, the strange back and forth about whether the victim was a BOLI employee or a campaign volunteer I find intriguing.

                In any case, my sense is that from all reports Commissioner Avakian handled the matter correctly. But it is curious (to me at least) how whoever leaked this to Willamette Week chose to spin this story and why.

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                  Reading Steve Duin's column this morning, I understand that you're essentially talking about whether this could or could not have been handled under workplace sexual harassment statutes. Extending those protections to interns would be great. Of course, depending on circumstances there are other avenues of legal recourse under sexual abuse (as opposed to harassment/discrimination) statutes.

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    What does everyone make of Schaufler's version of the story?

    (Not that putting a sticker on a woman's breast is acceptable in those circumstances, but it does seem significantly different than "grabbing.")

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      I don't like it if anyone tries to put a sticker on me without my permission. Even if it is non-sexual it is an invasion of my personal privacy.

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        Agreed. Years ago I went to an event where a guy was just slapping nametags on every as they walked in. He slapped mine directly on my right breast--at which point I stopped and asked him "so what should we name the other one?". He turned bright red and afterward started handing the nametags to people to affix themselves. Lesson learned.

        The question here is---was it a "slap the sticker on" or did the hand grope/grab? Big difference and even witnesses can't often tell. The only two that really ever will know are the Representative and the woman.

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      Yes, putting a sticker on someone's chest is different than grabbing someone's breast.

      It has been reported that there were multiple witnesses. And there were swift and strong reactions from Brad Avakian, Tom Chamberlain, Arnie Roblan, and Bruce Hanna, and others.

      That set of facts seems to speak for itself.

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