What others say: Westlake should resign

  • By Juneau Empire editorial
  • Wednesday, December 13, 2017 1:17pm
  • Opinion

“Sweetheart.” “Honey.” “Baby.” How are we supposed to get any work done when you’re “dressed like that?”

We’re disgusted by the actions of state Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, who apparently has been sexually harassing female staffers and aides in the state Capitol.

Seven women — six anonymous and one named — stepped forward this week and told the Anchorage Daily News that Westlake had subjected them to unwanted sexual advances and touching during legislative sessions in Juneau.

In one case, Westlake put his hand on a woman’s thigh, which the woman quickly brushed away. He gave “lingering” hugs to another woman, enough to prompt her to tell him she felt uncomfortable. He made comments on how the staffers dress and their physical appearance, and even passed a note to a fellow legislator in a meeting, saying the legislator should tell his staffer how good she looked in a dress. In another instance, standing on the street with another legislator, he asked a passing staffer in a skirt how legislators were supposed to get any work done when staff members were dressed “like that.”

Then, one night at a charity fundraising event, in a crowded dark room, he grabbed staffer Olivia Garrett’s buttocks. She lodged a complaint with the Alaska House Majority Coalition leader.

For years, women around the world have felt that this kind of behavior from men in power was something they had to put up with in order to keep their jobs.

No more. Enough. This has got to stop.

This type of gross sexist talk and demeaning behavior has no place in any workplace, much less the halls of the Alaska State Capitol, where our elected leaders are expected to represent us.

And the lip service from legislators? Enough of that too.

Those who work at the Capitol need to take a hard a look in the mirror and ask themselves: Why wasn’t anything done with Olivia Garrett’s complaint?

Garrett filed a complaint, detailing what happened, but no one took it seriously. No one took action. No one called for action. No one called for discipline. The letter wasn’t even taken to HR. She ultimately got so fed up of waiting, she released the letter herself on the internet, where it got the attention of a few bloggers, then a TV station, then the Anchorage Daily News and the rest of the state’s media.

It’s disturbing that her complaint died with one person and was ignored for months. What other complaints are “pending?” Why was there not something in place to funnel this complaint to HR? Follow up should have been obvious and mandatory.

Garrett also told the press that after Westlake grabbed her, she wasn’t sure where and how she should report it.

When there’s a fire, a car crash or a heart attack, people know to call 911. Sexual harassment is a little different. If it’s not at the emergency level, or it’s unclear if a crime has been committed, people often aren’t sure where to turn.

Many businesses are required to hang up signs in places like a lunch room, telling employees what phone number to call to report harassment. This is standard. Why is this not in place at the Capitol?

And even if that is in place, the legislators at the Capitol need to seriously ask themselves: Why did the other six women who were harassed not feel comfortable speaking out about Westlake? Why did it take Westlake harassing at least seven people before something was done? Why was it ignored for so long?

This isn’t a case of “he said, she said.” It’s a case of “he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.”

In the meantime, we agree with some legislators who are now calling for Westlake’s resignation. His apology is not enough. He needs to resign.

Westlake, we have a question: How are we supposed to get any work done when you’re sexually harrassing us?

— Juneau Empire editorial,

Dec. 10

More in Opinion

Deven Mitchell greets his fellow members of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees at the start of his interview to be the APFC’s new executive director on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: It’s an honor to now lead Alaska’s largest renewable resource

As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true

Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter