POLITICS

Sen. Davis retires after calls of resignations from Senate and party leaders

Oct 19, 2022, 5:12 PM | Updated: 6:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, announced he will retire in a month after being removed from committee assignments and his caucus by legislative leaders Wednesday.

In a statement provided by his attorney, Davis plans to retire from the Utah State Senate on Nov. 19 but denies all sexual harassment claims made against him by a former legislative intern.

“Though Senator Davis continues to deny any wrongdoing, recent events have made it impractical for him to continue his work in the Senate,” reads the statement. “So, in the best interest of his constituency and the people of Utah, Senator Davis has determined to step aside and resign from the Utah State Senate.”

Davis served in the Senate for nearly 24 years and has been in public service for about 36 years, according to the statement, but plans to serve Utahns as a private citizen.

“Senator Davis wants to thank everyone who has trusted him with their vote and confidence to represent them over the last 36 years. In his own words: “’It has been an honor to serve the great
people of the State of Utah. May God bless you all and God bless Utah,’” reads the statement.

Calls for Resignations

After reviewing the independent report, Utah State Senate stated that Davis’s interactions with his former intern “more likely than not” violated Senate policies on Wednesday.

“I have removed Sen. Davis from all president-appointed committee assignments and urged him to resign from the Senate,” said Stuart Adams, President of the Utah Senate. “We strive to create and maintain to have a respectful and professional work environment and are committed to addressing any allegations. I want to reiterate that the Senate does not and will not tolerate workplace harassment, which is why I directed an independent investigation to evaluate the allegations.”

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Karen Mayne said Senate Democrats have accepted Davis’s resignation from their caucus and called for Davis to immediately resign from the Senate.

“While the former intern did not file an official complaint, after learning about the concerning allegations, President J. Stuart Adams directed an independent investigation to review the claims,” the Senate statement says.

The Senate hired two independent attorneys with experience in workplace harassment and discrimination to look into the allegations.

“After interviewing multiple witnesses and assessing their credibility, the investigators concluded that it was more likely than not that Sen. Davis’ interactions with the intern during her legislative internship violated Senate policies,” continues the Senate statement.

The Senate and the Democratic Party held separate investigations into the allegations made by the former intern on Instagram in early August.

In Sept., Salt Lake County Democrats asked Davis to resign immediately after their investigation into the allegations. They suspended him from all Salt Lake County Democratic Party events and support from the Democrat party for two years.

Davis’s attorney responded in Sept. to the Democrat’s investigation, accusing the party of an unfair and biased investigation toward Davis.

Senate Independent Report

On Wednesday, The Utah Senate released a confidential memorandum from their independent investigation detailing witness statements, allegations, and the credibility of both parties.

The Utah Senate asked investigators to find out if Davis’s actions violated Senate policies and factual information, not any criminal or legal conclusions, according to the report.

“Our investigation initially focused only on this issue: ‘ls it more likely than not that Sen. Davis’s interactions with Ms. Weglinski during her internship violated the Senate’s policies?'” reads the report.

The former intern worked with Davis from Jan. to March, where she helped with his re-election campaign, according to the report. During this time, she regularly attended weekend campaign meetings at Davis’s home.

In the Instagram post, the intern alleges that Davis would “would put his arm around (her) waist, play with (her) toes, and constantly invade (her) physical boundaries.”

According to the report, the intern told investigators that Davis streamed the pilot episode of “You’re the Worst” after a campaign meeting at his home. The episode had “crude sexual language and graphic sexual themes and situations.”

The intern also alleged that Davis provided her with alcohol after a campaign meeting while she was under 21.

“Inappropriate” Touching

The independent investigators interviewed the former intern, Davis, and other witnesses with their legal console president, according to the report. They also reviewed emails and texts exchanged between all parties.

The intern alleged that Davis would play with or touch her toes multiple times while she worked for him, including one incident while in Davis’s Senate office.

“(The intern), who was wearing open-toed shoes, was reclining in one of his chairs and her feet were up,” reads the report. “She recalled that Sen. Davis walked by her and as he did, he grabbed her toes as if playing ‘little piggies.’ ”

The intern claims that Davis touched her feet while at his home about four or five times, but she couldn’t remember the specifics.

A witness told investigators that Davis did touch her feet at least once, according to the report. The witness recalled a time that Davis admitted to touching the intern’s feet as she fell asleep on his couch, and he “tapped” her foot to wake her up.

Davis denies all claims of touching the former intern’s foot.

Investigators looked into the intern’s claims of Davis putting his hands and arms around her waist while they walked down the stairs in the Capitol, according to the report.

During one instance of this, the intern told investigators that Davis put his hand on her waist to guide her down the stairs. She noticed one unknown person witnessing this and recalled their face looking concerned. However, while she did feel uncomfortable, she did not “want to start anything.”

Davis denies this claim telling investigators “that he was raised by his mother and grandmother to be a ‘strict gentleman,’ and as such, he allows a woman to lead if they were going upstairs, and he would lead if they were going down.”

While investigators couldn’t substantiate this allegation, a witness told investigators they found the relationship between Davis and the intern “odd.”

“(They) felt that Sen. Davis and (the intern) were very ‘chummy,’ and that Sen. Davis was ‘huggy’ with (the intern) and touched her on the arm or shoulder and pulled her close to him,” states the report.

The intern alleged that Davis hand or spoon-fed her while in Davis’s office and his home.

“Davis would offer (the intern) a snack or bring her food, but when she would reach to take what he was offering, Sen. Davis would move the food away from her and feed her with his utensils or his hand,” according to the report.

The intern told investigators this became a “normal” thing and dismissed Davis’s actions as “paternal” because she thought of him as a “grandpa figure.”

Davis denied feeding the intern in any way, telling investigators they never ate together.

While none of the witnesses saw these interactions, one witness recalled the intern and Davis telling them separately that the intern cooked a meal for Davis at his home, according to the report.

Sexual TV Show & Underaged Drinking

The former intern alleged that Davis showed her a TV show that had sexual and crude themes after a campaign meeting, according to the report. She recalled that Davis was “adamant about how funny” the show was and invited her and two other redacted witnesses to watch it.

“(The intern) described the show as ‘grotesque’ and recalled that it had ‘sex scene after sex scene,’ which she found ‘vulgar.'” states the report. “Sen. Davis laughed during the sex scenes and did not turn off the show,” which made her uncomfortable.

One of the witnesses confirmed Davis airing the show with the former intern and recalled it being the pilot episode of “You’re the Worst.” While the intern didn’t know the show’s name, another witness confirmed it.

According to the report, investigators watched the episode and agreed that the show contains graphic sexual content with vulgar language and sexual acts. Davis told investigators he did not recall watching such a show with the former intern.

The intern lastly claims that Davis gave her and possibly two others tequila after a campaign meeting at his home, according to the report.

“(The intern) states that she felt very uncomfortable and that she took a sip but did not finish it,” the report states. A witness corroborated her version of events.

Davis admitted to investigators that he might have served tequila during his weekend meetings but denied offering the intern alcohol.

Credibility & Delayed Allegations

According to the report, the former intern decided not to reveal the allegations publicly until August for three different reasons.

The first was the intern didn’t want to accuse Davis of misconduct before the primary elections because she didn’t want people to accuse her of playing a political game and using the accusations as a political ploy.

The second reason, the intern felt an imbalance of power between her and Davis and the seriousness of the allegations, according to the report.

“She expressed concern that her complaint would not be received because ‘so many [people] respect Sen. Davis,'” states the report. “Additionally, (the intern) only ‘wanted to be an intern,’ which she viewed as prestigious, and did not want to deal with the ‘drama’ that would follow a complaint.”

The last reason was the intern viewed Davis’s behavior as “innocent and grandfatherly,” but that changed after seeing another woman’s experience with Davis on social media.

The independent investigative team believes that the former intern and the witness were creditable during their interviews. However, they didn’t feel the same about Davis as he gave them several inconsistent and contradicting statements.

“For example, Sen. Davis did not consistently testify that he was never alone with (the intern),” according to the report. “Sen. Davis initially claimed that (the intern) was not alone with him at his home and that other campaign workers were usually there. Later in the interview, Sen. Davis admitted that (the intern) may have stayed longer than other campaign workers, but if she did, he was in his office or sitting on his couch working.”

However, witnesses confirmed to investigators that Davis and the intern were alone. They told investigators that they confronted Davis about him spending alone time with the intern and suggested he should stop.

According to the report, Davis did not recall talking to the witnesses about these concerns.

Davis also claimed the intern did not work on his campaign until late Feb. or early March, and she did not attend meetings at his home. However, Davis admitted she attended campaign meetings between Jan. and March but insisted the meetings took place at the Capitol, not his home.

Witnesses and the former intern both refute these versions of events, as they met in late Jan. during a campaign meeting at Davis’s house, according to the report. They also said that all campaign meetings were held at Davis’s house, not his Senate office.

Independent Report Findings

The Senate independent investigative team concluded that Davis’s actions towards his former intern likely did violate the Senate’s policies, according to the report.

“Independent third-party witnesses support and corroborate (the intern’s) allegations that Sen. Davis invaded her personal space, touched her feet, and watched a sexually explicit television show with her and at least one other person,” reads the report. “Although we could not find similarly supportive recollections or documents, we also find it more likely than not that Sen. Davis hand- or spoon-fed (the intern.)”

The investigators could not find direct evidence that Davis was acting maliciously or intentionally creating a hostile work environment, but they believe his intent doesn’t excuse the policy violation.

Investigators also concluded that Davis did serve alcohol to the intern while she was underage.

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Sen. Davis retires after calls of resignations from Senate and party leaders