Report: Washington Governor Probably Didn’t Harass Aide
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Gov. Mike Lowry probably touched a former aide in a way that she found offensive, but a jury probably wouldn’t convict him of sexual harassment, an investigator selected by the governor’s office says.
Susanne Albright, Lowry’s former deputy press secretary, says the governor once greeted her at his mansion in nothing more than a towel and later joked that she was lucky he hadn’t dropped it.
Albright also says Lowry groped her, made lewd remarks about women wearing swimsuits in cold weather, invited her into his hotel room and said he wanted to move in with her.
But in a report released Thursday, attorney Mary Alice Theiler said she found no clear evidence of sexual harassment. Theiler called Albright a ``credible person,″ but added that ``with the facts as I know them, I do not believe a jury would find in her favor.″
In a statement today, Theiler said her report shouldn’t be viewed as vindication for the governor.
``This report puts responsibility squarely on his shoulders for conduct which distressed and offended a valuable employee,″ Theiler said.
``This report concludes that the system failed Susanne Albright, and the governor bears the ultimate responsibility for that system. He will be held accountable for correcting the problems that led to that failure.″
Lowry’s aides chose Theiler, who has represented a number of women in sexual harassment cases, to investigate Albright’s claims.
Lowry, a first-term Democrat, denied some of Albright’s claims outright and said in other cases, she misconstrued friendly remarks and gestures.
Albright, 37, has not filed a formal complaint. Her attorney, Larry Finegold, dismissed the report, saying Theiler found Albright credible and turned up clear instances of sexual harassment, but refused to call it that. He also said she failed to give much weight to other women who had complained about Lowry.
Finegold has been highly critical that the governor’s office chose who would conduct the theoretically independent investigation, particularly since Theiler had donated to Lowry’s campaign fund. But he said ``whitewash″ was too strong a word.
Hours after the report was made available to the governor and Albright’s attorney, Albright was hospitalized Thursday for about 12 hours.
``The underlying stress of the investigation and release of the report led to her brief hospitalization,″ Finegold said, adding, ``I will neither confirm nor deny suicide (attempt) reports.″
Lowry’s staff director, Lorraine Hine, said Lowry and top aides will voluntarily undergo more rigorous sexual-harassment training and redraft policies for dealing with the problem in state government.
The governor said he was chastened by the report, adding, ``I have learned the hard way.″ He said he takes responsibility for not noticing Albright’s discomfort and vowed to guard against a repeat.