SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – An investigation has been launched after Utah State Senator Gene Davis has been accused of sexually harassing a former intern.
Davis has been suspended from Salt Lake County Democratic activities while Utah Senate leaders have launched an independent investigation into the accusations.
Details of the alleged sexual harassment were posted on social media by Davis’ a former intern during his primary campaign from January to March 2022 and later become a paid staffer.
In the social media posts, the woman describes feeling excited about her internship opportunity, but says the professional lines while working with Davis “soon became blurred.” She describes a series of physical touching incidents saying, “He would put his arm around my waist. He would play with my toes when I sat down on his officer reclining couch. He would constantly invade my physical boundaries.”
“I felt like my experience at the Utah Capitol was stolen away from me,” she says.
The woman recalls feeling uncomfortable but felt conflicted at the time due to the “amazing opportunity “ to work for a state senator. She says she recalled reading about previous sexual allegations against Davis, but didn’t believe them at the time.
The allegations were later brought up in an interview with Davis during which the woman recalls staffers around him dismissing the allegations while victim-blaming the accusers.
The woman recalls a day in May 2022 when she visited Davis’ home for work while taking photos of him on his front porch. She says at one point he, “pointed and told me I had dirt on my butt.” She said she didn’t think much of it and tried to clean it off. When she and Davis entered his home, she says he approaches her with a small towel while telling her to “Get up.”
He then allegedly asked, “Do you want me to wipe the dirt off your butt?” After declining his help more than once, she claims was about to sit down before Davis walks over and “Starts wiping down my butt.”
“I was in complete shock,” she recalls. “After he was done, he looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Did that make you uncomfortable?’ I did not know what I said to him. I don’t even remember what I said to him.”
She officially resigned from her position while allegedly explaining in detail Davis’ actions as the reasons. She says Davis’ campaign manager tried to “rationalize” the incidents by saying the man is “touchy-feely with his close ones” while also saying despite everything, Davis “is a better candidate and he’s needed at the Capitol and that he still supports him.”
The woman says the campaign manager “was a former Salt Lake County Chairman of the Democratic Party and has been very influential in the UDP [Utah Democratic Party.]”
The Utah Democratic Party has released a statement in light of the allegations saying:
“The Utah Democratic Party takes claims of sexual harassment very seriously. Since our comprehensive anti-harassment policy was implemented in 2019, the party has engaged in balanced and thorough investigations whenever claims have been made, and perpetrators who have been found guilty have been officially disciplined and even expelled from the party.
To be clear, the Utah Democratic Party does not have any involvement in facilitating legislative internships, which are run entirely through programs at individual universities in coordination with the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.
Additionally, to date, the party has not received any official complaints in regards to the individual in question. Due to the nature of our party’s governing documents, we cannot investigate claims without an official request for the Judicial Committee to launch an inquiry. Should such a complaint be officially made to the party, we will follow the process outlined in our Anti-Harassment Policies and Procedures to fully investigate the claims.
Everyone should feel safe from sexual harassment, and that is why we believe a fair and thorough process for investigating these claims is so important.”
Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams issued the following statement:
“Wednesday evening, I learned about the allegations concerning Sen. Davis from an online post made by a former intern. The entire Senate and I take these comments seriously. After reviewing recommendations from the legislative general counsel and human resource administrator, I have directed an independent investigation be initiated to evaluate these allegations. The Senate condemns and does not tolerate workplace harassment. It has no place in any political, professional or personal setting.”
The Senate minority leadership – Sen. Karen Mayne, Sen. Luz Escamilla and Sen. Jani Iwamoto – issued the following statement:
“We take the recent allegations against Sen. Davis very seriously and do not tolerate sexual harassment or any form of inappropriate conduct in the workplace. We support an independent investigation to move forward immediately and will examine all options. Sexual harassment is wholly unacceptable, and while no complaint has been filed, we have confidence in the Legislature’s workplace discrimination and harassment policies and process to support employees and interns.”
The Salt Lake County Democratic Party’s statement reads:
“We stand firmly with victims and temporarily suspend Senator Gene Davis from participating in Salt Lake County Democratic Party events, committees, and any party-related activity.”