A lawmaker who is the subject of an investigation into allegations of improper conduct has stepped down from his leadership positions on two Senate committees.
Senate Democratic leadership announced Wednesday that they were reconfiguring committees based on Sen. Kevin Ranker’s decision to step down from his chairmanship of the newly proposed Environment & Tourism Committee. He also is stepping down as a vice chair for environment and natural resources on the Ways and Means Committee.
“This move will allow the Senate to fully focus on the important environmental policies we will be considering this session while we wait for the conclusion of the investigation into the allegations of workplace misconduct against Sen. Ranker,” Majority Leader Andy Billig said in a written statement.
Ranker, a Democrat from Orcas Island, has been under investigation since last fall. Tara Parker, an investigator with Ogden Murphy Wallace law firm in Seattle, was hired by the chamber in October to investigate the claims.
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Ann Larson, who served as Ranker’s legislative assistant for a year, has said that the investigation is related to sexual harassment and hostile workplace issues she faced while working for him during the 2010 legislative session. She said that she had a brief consensual relationship with Ranker before he was elected to the Legislature, but that when she rebuffed him after he recruited her to the Senate, he became increasingly hostile to her, and she ultimately decided to leave the job.
Larson, who is now director of government relations at the state’s Department of Enterprise Services, says she also was subjected to hostile encounters involving Ranker once she left to work as a legislative liaison for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, but Larson agreed to have her name used.
Ranker did not respond to text or email messages seeking comment Wednesday, but has said previously that he believed he would be exonerated.
Senate leaders say that the Environment and Tourism Committee will now be folded into two committees already in existence, with the environmental component being absorbed by the renamed Environment, Energy & Technology Committee and the tourism element becoming part of the Financial Institutions, Economic Development and Trade Committee.
Ranker will remain a member of both the Environment, Energy & Technology and Ways and Means Committees.
Billig said that once the investigation is complete, “we will weigh the full facts of this case and act accordingly.”