When Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) chose to enter Oregon House politics, he showed up with baggage. And not just the carry-on size. Wingard brought a steamer trunk full of personal foibles and accusations., not the least of which had to do with smacking his kid with a screwdriver.
After having spent some time in the job, things haven't improved much for him. Wingard has been dogged by allegations of plagiarism. His position on the House Education Committee is rife with conflict of interest issues and his unwillingness to work with colleagues has led to some legendary committee dysfunction.
It would appear that Wingard will need to acquire a new steamer trunk to contain the latest set of problems.
A former aide to Deputy House Republican Leader Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) has accused him of giving her alcohol when she was underage, pressuring her to have sex, and keeping her on the public payroll after she ended the relationship with him and stopped reporting for work.
The former aide first approached the Oregon Department of Justice in January with allegations about Wingard’s conduct, which she says took place in 2010, beginning when she was 20.
The DOJ, and later the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, interviewed the woman. Both agencies declined to bring charges, concluding there was no crime committed or the statute of limitations had run out. Neither agency interviewed Wingard about her allegations.
Wingard, 39, is a former TV reporter who was first elected to the House in 2008 and is a rising star in his caucus. In addition to his legislative responsibilities, he serves as a spokesman for Oregon Connections Academy, the state’s biggest online charter school.
Wingard acknowledges the woman worked for him and he had a sexual relationship with her. But he says the relationship was consensual and he never provided her with alcohol when she was underage.
“I am confident all the facts will come out and my name will be cleared,” Wingard tells WW.
Setting aside the notion that an individual as questionable as Wingard is considered a "rising star in his caucus", I wonder how many more times this guy can go to the "I didn't do this thing and this is nothing more than my political enemies trying to get me" well.
This latest round of allegations prompted Wingard to resign his leadership post with the caucus. Interestingly, it appears he did it of his own volition, rather than his Republican peers taking action. I'm not sure what it says about a GOP House Leadership that doesn't have the basic decency to get rid of a guy who is having sex with his subordinate--even if consensual, it sets up a very bad precedent, not to mention possible legal trouble down the road. It's just dangerous and stupid on Wingard's part and he should know better. But if even part of this woman's story is true in terms of sexual coercion, Wingard ought to lose his committee chairmanships and be forced to take a back seat. These alleged actions are reprehensible.
Republican co-Speaker Bruce Hanna has some serious explaining to do.
Contrast this with Democratic co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, who stripped Democrat Mike Schaufler of his committee assignments after Schaufler was accused of groping a woman's breast at an AFL-CIO event.
The inability of Hanna to police Wingard and hold him accountable here is deeply problematic. It shows a fundamental weakness in their leadership--which frankly may explain why a guy like Wingard has been able to elevate himself in their ranks. Even if people agree with Wingard on policy, sleeping with his subordinate (which Wingard says he did) is a serious dirtbag move, which reflects badly on House Republicans.