Following allegations that Senator Kevin Ranker sexually harassed a female member of staff in 2010, Washington State Senate leaders have hired an outside party to investigate.
Outside investigation into Kevin Ranker
Yesterday an Associated Press report revealed that the Washington State Senate has hired Tara Parker of the Seattle law firm Ogden Murphy Wallace to investigate allegations that Senator Kevin Ranker sexually harassed former staffer Ann Larson.
Larson worked on Ranker’s staff after he was elected to the State Senate in 2008. According to Larson, the two had previously engaged in a consensual sexual relationship, but she decided to try and keep their relationship professional after becoming Ranker’s employee.
Larson says she was subjected to regular sexual harassment by Ranker during the 2010 legislative session. She alleges that after she rebuffed his advances, Ranker grew increasingly hostile.
Larson’s decision to come forward with the allegations is a first test of the State Senate’s new workplace guidelines, adopted in the wake of recent #MeToo scandals nationwide.
Ann Larson speaks out
Ann Larson decided to speak publicly about her allegations against Ranker in an interview with local public radio station KUOW yesterday.
After describing her time working for Ranker as a “verbally abusive and hostile work environment,” Larson said the Senator continued to make her life difficult after she left for a position with the state’s Department of Fish & Wildlife.
“At first, it’s like he’s blackballing me from his office, like not allowing me to see him,” she told KUOW. “He’s also yelling at me in the hallways.”
Ranker also questioned Larson’s position at Fish & Wildlife. She said Ranker was, “telling me that I’m overpaid, telling me that I’m a worthless legislative director.”
In 2014, Larson was raped by a Fish & Wildlife colleague who broke into her home. After her assailant Greg Schirato was convicted in January this year, Larson became more determined to speak up about other problems she has encountered.
“The events made me find my voice,” she said. “People like [Ranker] should not be in a position of power, using intimidation tactics, using those type of ways to get ahead in life.”
Larson has also decided to speak publicly to the media about her allegations.
“As a survivor, I know what it takes to go through this and I’m willing to go through it again,” she said. “There should not be fear of retaliation as a result of reporting any type of inappropriate behavior.”
Kevin Ranker denies allegations
Senator Ranker has denied Ann Larson’s allegations. In a statement given to the Northwest News Network he said, “A little over a month ago I learned that a former colleague reported that she felt mistreated by me while in my employment nearly a decade ago.
“I believe that I will be exonerated from these allegations,” he added.
According to the AP, Ranker has promised the Senate to cooperate fully with the investigation. “I believed an investigation was absolutely critical to ensure fairness for all involved,” he wrote in an email.
The new Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct that outlines the procedures for the investigation sets no time limit for the investigator to deliver their report, or for the Secretary of the Senate to take any possibly disciplinary action. If disciplinary action is taken against Ranker, he will have 14 days to appeal.