In response to the problems resulting from allegations of sexual harassment and wrongful termination being laid against two Oklahoma senators, a new committee is being set up to further investigate these complaints. The idea for this committee was created by Senate Minority Leader John Sparks. Sexual assault allegations have been laid against Representative Dan Kirby of Tulsa and Will FourKiller of Stilwell. This new committee would allow any lawmaker to request an investigation. Once this request is placed, the committee would decide whether or not the investigation will move forward. According to the measure, the committee’s job would be “to investigate any allegation of a violation of a law, any policy of either house of the legislature or any other impropriety which may have been committed by a member of the legislature.” If the committee agrees to investigate a case, it sends the gathered data to the head leader of the chamber in which the perpetrator works, or criminal authorities.
There remains the issue of control over the committee. According to this measure, the committee will be comprised of 12 people. There will be three people chosen by the house majority leader, three chosen by the House Majority Leader, three chosen by the Pro Tempore, or highest ranking senator, and three by the Senate Majority Leader. This distribution of power throughout the government seeks to provide equal power in the committee. Through this system, the government is hoping that no one will ever completely control this investigatory council. However, there is always the problem of the group being an even number of people, which could potentially lead to gridlock.
This committee is especially important because of the recent allegations about representative Dan Kirby. These allegations stated that Dan Kirby possibly sexually harassed two of his former assistants. Dan Kirby then refused to speak at a house panel, stating that “the rules imposed by the committee, which meets behind closed doors, impeded [his] right to due process.” One of the major issues behind this case was that former House Speaker Jeff Hickman paid out a $44,000 settlement to one of Kirby’s former executive assistants over a wrongful termination and sexual harassment complaint. Hickman stated that “there was no sexual harassment, but it was cheaper to settle the grievance rather than litigate it.”
After this allegation was brought forward, Dan Kirby’s committee chairmanship was revoked by current house speaker Charles McCall over Kirby’s refusal to talk to the committee. In response to all of these allegations, Kirby has now officially agreed on meeting the committee on the 27th of January, stating: “I believe it is in the best interest of my constituents and citizens of the state of Oklahoma that I appear before the committee and respond to the allegations lodged against me.”
Dan Kirby is not the only one under accusations of sexual harassment. Representative FourKiller was told in 2015 that one of his actions made one of his pages uncomfortable. If either set of claims proves to be true, the House could vote with a two-thirds majority to expel Kirby or FourKiller. This would require Governor Mary Fallin to create a special election to find new representatives.
Whether or not both Dan Kirby and Will FourKiller are guilty in these claims of sexual harassment, it is important that there is a functioning system in which crimes such as these are not just pushed aside but rather brought into the light so that they can be solved. This committee will have its problems, but it seems like a good step to help bring justice to these serious issues involving Oklahoma’s elected officials.