SE­NA­TOR RE­SIGNS UN­DER PRES­SURE

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page -

Demo­cratic state Sen. Kevin Ranker, who is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion after al­le­ga­tions of im­proper con­duct, re­signed.

A state se­na­tor who was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of im­proper con­duct has re­signed days ahead of the start of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, a Demo­crat from Or­cas Is­land, sent a let­ter to Gov. Jay Inslee’s of­fice late Fri­day say­ing that he was re­sign­ing “with a heavy heart.” He wrote that his res­ig­na­tion was ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately. The 105-day leg­isla­tive ses­sion be­gins Mon­day.

Ranker has been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion since last fall. Tara Parker, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor with Og­den Mur­phy Wal­lace law firm in Seat­tle, was hired by the cham­ber in Oc­to­ber to in­ves­ti­gate claims made by Ann Lar­son, who served as Ranker’s leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant for a year. Lar­son says she dealt with sex­ual harass­ment and hos­tile work­place is­sues while work­ing for him dur­ing the 2010 leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

Lar­son has said that she had a brief con­sen­sual re­la­tion­ship with Ranker be­fore he was elected to the Leg­is­la­ture, but that when she re­buffed him after he re­cruited her to the Se­nate, he be­came in­creas­ingly hos­tile to her, and she ul­ti­mately de­cided to leave the job.

Lar­son, who is now di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions at the state’s Depart­ment of En­ter­prise Ser­vices, says she also was sub­jected to hos­tile en-

coun­ters in­volv­ing Ranker once she left to work as a leg­isla­tive li­ai­son for the Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife.

In an email sent to his con­stituents and oth­ers Satur­day, Ranker wrote that he has fully co­op­er­ated with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I am deeply sorry for any stress I caused her and I sin­cerely apol­o­gize,” he wrote. “I wish her peace.”

In a text mes­sage to The As­so­ci­ated Press on Sat- ur­day, Lar­son wrote that she’s glad she can move on. “I hope that by my ac­tions, more peo­ple feel safe to re­port any kind of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior with­out fear of re­tal­i­a­tion,” she wrote.

Ranker’s de­ci­sion comes days after Se­nate Democrats an­nounced they were re­con­fig­ur­ing com­mit­tees based on his de­ci­sion to step down from his chair­man­ship of the newly pro­posed En­vi­ron­ment & Tourism Com- mit­tee, and to leave his lead­er­ship po­si­tion as a vice chair for en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources on the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Andy Bil­lig is­sued a writ­ten state­ment Satur­day an­nounc­ing Ranker’s de­ci­sion, say­ing that process to re­place him will be­gin “as soon as pos­si­ble,” and that be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ranker con­tin­ues, he won’t be able to com­ment fur­ther un­til he reads the com­pleted re­port. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ranker is the first test of the cham­ber’s new work­place poli­cies adopted in the wake of the #MeToo move­ment.

In July, a Se­nate com­mit­tee ap­proved re­vised work­place poli­cies based on rec­om­men­da­tions by a bi­par­ti­san task force. Un­der the new pol­icy, once an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and any sub­se­quent ap­peal is com­pleted, a re­port will be re­leased pub­licly if there is a find­ing of a vi­o­la­tion of pro­hib­ited con­duct.

“The Se­nate re­mains com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing and fos­ter­ing a safe, in­clu­sive work­place for ev­ery­one,” Bil­lig wrote.

RACHEL LA CORTE AP file photo

Sen. Kevin Ranker, a Demo­crat from Or­cas Is­land, lis­tens dur­ing a 2015 hear­ing in Olympia. Ranker an­nounced Satur­day that he is re­sign­ing his state Se­nate seat.

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