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Sen. Gene Davis responds to call from Salt Lake County Dems to resign following investigation

SHARE Sen. Gene Davis responds to call from Salt Lake County Dems to resign following investigation
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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party on Tuesday called for the “immediate and unconditional resignation” of longtime Utah state Sen. Gene Davis.

Davis, D-Salt Lake City, has been suspended from party events since August, after the Utah Senate opened an investigation into allegations that the senator sexually harassed a former intern during this year’s legislative session. The party said it had concluded its own investigation, and claimed Davis violated the party’s anti-harassment policy.

“We remain committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment, free of harassment, to all who wish to participate,” the Salt Lake County Democratic Party Executive Committee said in a prepared statement. “We take our responsibility of providing this environment seriously and will always stand up for those who experience harassment, regardless of the identity of the accused.”

In a statement released later Tuesday evening, Davis’s attorney said the senator will continue to serve for the remainder of his term at the end of this year. He also refuted the claims made by the party, including that the investigation into Davis’s conduct was conducted fairly.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” attorney Benjamin B. Grindstaff said in the statement. “The Salt Lake County Democratic Executive Committee failed to follow the most important procedures under their ‘investigation.’”

He went on to say the party had ignored the requirement of confidentiality in the investigation and had conducted a biased investigation by allowing the accuser to serve on the committees tasked with carrying it out.

He also claimed that Davis had appealed the decision by the party, but said the committee ignored that appeal when it publicly announced the decision and called on Davis to resign. The Salt Lake County Democratic Party Executive Committee said it had initially voted unanimously to hold Davis in violation on Sept. 12, when it began a 14-day waiting period to give time for an appeal.

“That period is now over, and no appeal was filed,” the party said in its statement announcing the decision.

“Entirely contrary to the statement released by the Salt Lake Democratic Party today, Sen. Davis did in fact timely appeal the decision of the Executive Committee, but his appeal was simply ignored by the Salt Lake County Democratic Party Executive Committee,” Grindstaff said.

“Sen. Davis has done nothing that would warrant his resignation from the Utah State Senate,” he continued. “Sen. Davis will continue to be a fervent voice on Capitol Hill for public education and for the health and economic stability of Utah families. Sen. Davis is saddened that the Salt Lake County party leaders have continually violated the party’s policies and procedures, but he will continue to tirelessly serve the great people of his district and the state of Utah through the full term of his office as he has done for the last 36 years.”

The allegations against Davis first surfaced in an Instagram post, in which a former intern accused the senator of inappropriate touching during her internship, and when she was later hired to help with his reelection campaign. She said she accepted a “high-paying position from him” in his campaign because she was “naive, broke, unemployed and desperate.”

“He would put his arm around my waist. He would play with my toes when I sat down on his office reclining couch. He would constantly invade my physical boundaries,” the woman said, adding that she “said nothing” and “did not fully acknowledge what was happening to me during this time.”

The woman also described a separate incident in which she says Davis told her she had dirt on her bottom after taking photos of him outside for his campaign. She said she tried to clean it off herself and declined his offer multiple times to brush it off.

“Before I could sit back down, he takes his towel and starts wiping down my butt,” the woman said. “I was in complete shock. After he was done, he looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Did that make you feel uncomfortable?’”

Davis has served in the Senate since 1999, and previously served in the House since 1987. He lost his campaign during this year’s primary election to challenger Nate Blouin, a renewable energy advocate.