DA won’t charge former lawmaker over sexual assault claim

Washington-DC

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo announced Monday that he will not charge a former state lawmaker accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2015.

A grand jury report says the former lawmaker was accused of having sex with a woman after she blacked out.​​

The report did not name the lawmaker. Former representative Brian Ellis resigned amid assault allegations in March.

The grand jury made several recommendations for how the General Assembly should handle similar misconduct allegations moving forward. Its report recommends the establishment of an independent Office of Legislative Responsibility with the authority to investigate claims of misconduct by a member of the General Assembly.

​​”Every other employer in the commonwealth has appropriate and universal policies that hold employees accountable for behavior that is deemed unacceptable, unbecoming, or criminal,” Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm said. “Our General Assembly should not be the exception, and yet they are.”

​​Other recommendations include eliminating any time limitation on sanctions against a member for official misconduct and acquiring other members or staff who become aware of misconduct to report it to the newly established office.​​

“Recent events in our state government and across every industry have shown that many workplaces are still ill-equipped to handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault,” Sen. Jay Costa said in a statement. “Our caucus has made many changes in the last year including the creating a Department of Human Resources, updating our process of reporting harassment, and mandating additional training for members and staff; however, I agree with DA Chardo’s opinion that we need to do more.”​​

Leaders of the House Republican Caucus released a statement Monday that read, in part, ​”Our caucus remains committed to providing a workplace free from all forms of harassment and will continue to work hard to achieve that goal. We offer these comments because we take any and all instances of harassment seriously and are disappointed the gravity of our actions to address the problem was not properly explained to the grand jury. House Republicans have made significant improvements in recent years to address how accusations are investigated and continue to stand behind our actions to do everything in our power to eliminate sexual harassment and abuse.”

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