Sexual misconduct complaint filed against Senator
A third member of the 31-member Texas Senate is defending himself against a complaint of sexual misconduct as the Senate works on toughening its own sexual harassment policies.
On Tuesday, the Austin American Statesman reported that University of Texas officials are investigating whether State Sen. Charles Schwertner sent a sexually explicit image and text messages to a graduate student who was looking for career advice.
The Republican from Georgetown has denied any impropriety.
“The Senator categorically denies any knowledge of the accusations leveled against him and only became aware of this allegation when contacted by the media late this afternoon,” Schwertner’s campaign spokesman Tom Holloway told the Statesman. “The Senator is eager to cooperate with the University of Texas and hopes to make clear he played no part in the behavior described.”
Schwertner met the unnamed graduate student on the UT campus event in the summer, according to the newspaper. After they exchanged messages on the social media site Linkedin, they began texting one another.
The Statesman reported that during an exchange on career advice, Schwertner wrote that he “just really” wanted to have sex with the woman, and sent her an image that appeared to be a picture of his genitals.
The student then complained to the school, which is investigating the matter. The Texas Senate is monitoring the UT investigation.
“The lieutenant governor learned of the allegations this afternoon and he will await the outcome of the UT investigation,” said Alejandro Garcia, press secretary for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Schwertner, a doctor first elected in 2012, is running for re-election in November against Round Rock Democrat Meg Walsh. Schwertner, who is married and three children, is the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Health and Human Services.
Two Democrats in the State Senate have also faced allegations of sexual misconduct over the last 12 months and have denied the accusations first reported in The Daily Beast. In December both Sen. Borris Miles of Houston and then-Sen. Carlos Uresti of Helotes issued statements denying any misconduct.
Uresti resigned from the Senate this summer after being found guilty in February by a federal jury on 11 felony charges in connection with his involvement in a now-defunct San Antonio oilfield services company that defrauded investors.
It was amid those allegations that the State Senate held hearings delving into the Legislature’s sexual harassment and misconduct policies.
Patrick, who leads the Senate, asked the Senate’s Administration Committee late last year to review the rules and procedures in light of the growing public attention to sexual harassment. In the committee’s first hearing, lawmakers learned that in 16 years no employee in the Texas Senate had ever filed a formal sexual harassment complaint.
State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, has said that while the Senate has had policies against sexual harassment since the 1990s, a deeper review is needed.
“Today is the beginning of a process,” Kolkhorst said in December.
Texas has also lost two members of Congress since December amid sexual harassment allegations. In December, Congressman Joe Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas delegation, announced he would not seek re-election after recent revelations of a nude photo and sexually suggestive messages that appeared on the internet. In April, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned after it became public that a sexual harassment claim against his congressional office had been settled with $84,000 in taxpayer funds.