Senate investigation into rape allegation to move forward
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Senate leaders in Washington state say an outside investigation into a rape allegation made against state Sen. Joe Fain will continue even though he lost his re-election bid.
Democrat Mona Das captured nearly 51 percent of the vote in last week’s election, and Fain conceded Friday, a day after the chamber’s Facilities and Operations Committee unanimously approved an investigation.
Senate leaders initially said they would re-evaluate the decision if Fain, a Republican from Auburn, lost. On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Andy Billig, the chamber’s new majority leader and a member of the committee who was among the votes last week in favor of the investigation, said the process will continue.
“This is important for this situation and to affirm for all survivors that if they come forward, that their claims will be taken seriously,” Billig said.
Secretary of the Senate Brad Hendrickson said that he’s currently researching candidates for the job, and hopes to have a recommendation for Senate leadership next week. The committee imposed a report deadline of Dec. 31, though officials said they would like it by Dec. 14 if possible.
In September, Seattle resident Candace Faber tweeted that Fain raped her in 2007, on the night she graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Fain, who has denied the allegation, was not in office at the time at the time of the alleged assault. Faber, who previously worked with the city of Seattle’s information technology department and as a foreign service officer, said she was inspired to publicly speak out as she watched the televised allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Faber, 35, said that she was glad the Senate was following through with the investigation because “public officials need to be held to a higher standard.”
“I think if it’s done well, and allows truth to come to the surface more fully, that will be some kind of closure,” she said.
Fain, 37, was first elected to the Washington state Senate in 2010, three years after the alleged incident. He is currently the state Senate minority floor leader, though his term ends just before the start of the next legislative session on Jan. 14.
Fain did not respond to a message Wednesday seeking comment, but issued a statement last week in which he said “I have repeatedly sought a fair and respectful process that will allow me to clear my name and move on.”
The Legislature has grappled with how to address sexual harassment issues over the past year in light of the #MeToo movement and allegations past and present were brought to light.
This past summer, the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee approved a recommendation to hire a nonpartisan human resources officer who can independently investigate complaints of harassment or discrimination in the chamber, though any disciplinary actions would still fall to Senate administrators. The decision was one of the recommendations of a bipartisan Senate task force, and the committee has a meeting scheduled for Thursday to discuss a hiring recommendation.
The House has created its own sexual harassment work group that includes staff, lobbyists and lawmakers, though that group’s recommendations aren’t expected until the end of the year.