Report: Lawmaker made women feel uncomfortable at Capitol

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon lawmakers will soon decide how to respond to a new report that found a legislator's persistent and unwelcome romantic advances made two women concerned that the male lawmaker might undercut their work at the Capitol if they rejected his attempts to rekindle romantic relationships.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, also had a long-term relationship with a third woman, during which he exhibited behavior that could be interpreted as controlling and in some cases abusive, according to the report released this week.

The independent investigators spent nine months looking into allegations that Hernandez sexually harassed multiple women at the Capitol. They concluded Hernandez likely pressured the two women with whom he had brief, consensual intimate relationships in 2017, to restart those relationships. Further, they concluded, Hernandez was likely aware of the power imbalance in effect as he applied that pressure: He held a powerful position as a lawmaker while the women’s jobs depended upon maintaining legislators’ goodwill.

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Conduct are scheduled to take up the matter in four consecutive evening meetings starting Feb. 1. They must make factual determinations about what occurred between Hernandez and the women and decide whether Hernandez’ actions crated a hostile work environment that violated the Legislature’s rules. If they determine he did, then lawmakers would have to determine what punishment might deter future violations.

In a statement, Hernandez said he was sorry if people were made to feel uncomofrtable.

“Dating when you are young is hard,” Hernandez said. “Some dating relationships do not end definitively, but rather slip away over time. There is often some confusion, mixed signals, and strained emotions. To anyone I made uncomfortable in my personal life, I sincerely apologize. My actions were motivated from honest affection and the best of intentions.”