The top Democrat in the Pennsylvania Senate has called on embattled Sen. Daylin Leach to resign following the review of a “preliminary report” which found the Montgomery County Democrat engaged in “conduct that qualifies as unprofessional and inappropriate.”
“What we have already seen from the independent review shows irresponsible behavior and an unacceptable workplace for the staff of this caucus,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
“Senator Leach’s course of conduct created an unprofessional and sexualized environment. That should not be tolerated in any workplace; we will not tolerate it here,” Costa’s statement continues. “For this reason, I believe Senator Leach should resign from the Senate.”
On Thursday, Leach posted a slideshow presentation to his official Senate Facebook page, calling the document a “summary” of the report. Costa spokesperson Brittany Crampsie said the presentation was shown to caucus members Wednesday, but is not the “preliminary report.”
According to the document, the law firm enlisted by Senate Democrats to investigate Leach’s behavior found “no actionable sexual harassment,” but investigators did identify some “immature and unprofessional” behaviors that could lead to hostile work environment claims.
The firm, Eckert Seamans, declined to make a judgment about a sexual assault allegation against Leach.
In January 2019, a Lehigh Valley woman, Cara Taylor, began circulating an unfiled criminal complaint that alleged Leach coerced her into oral sex in 1991, when she was teenager and the state senator was an attorney representing Taylor’s mother.
A summary of the report, prepared by the Harrisburg office of the national law firm, described the allegations as “contested charges relying mainly on the resolution of credibility as between two people.”
“Ms. Taylor steadfastly believed her account of what transpired — her testimony on this point was detailed and passionate,” the summary states, while also noting “certain factual inconsistencies in Ms. Taylor’s recollection of events exist.”
“Senator Leach adamantly denies any inappropriate contact with Ms. Taylor.”
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Leach said the investigation “absolved me of false charges made against me” and found he did not violate “any Senate policy.”
“I have always maintained my innocence and said that I had a great deal of compelling evidence which would prove it,” Leach said. “I craved due process, but not as an empty effort to deflect or stall. I sincerely believed that anyone who reviewed the evidence would clearly see that I have never deliberately made anyone uncomfortable or been predatory in any way.”
Leach is suing Taylor, as well as two of her supporters, for defamation in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Taylor’s attorneys have accused the lawmaker of “weaponizing the courts” to silence their client.
On Thursday, those attorneys — Carrie Goldberg and Marni Snyder — said the summary document “confirmed that Cara Taylor’s allegations of child sexual assault were detailed and her belief steadfast.”
“We expect the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus to take these findings and arrive at its own independent assessment of appropriate punishment, specifically that it joins the governor and Senator Costa in demanding Leach’s resignation,” the attorneys said in a statement.
The report summary also details eight other misconduct and harassment allegations against Leach, most of which were first publicized in a 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer article.
In one instance, investigators found that Leach used the nickname “thong girl” for a woman described as an intern or employee.
“While Senator Leach was not the originator of the nickname, as the superior in the Office, he had an obligation to set the tone and prohibit such behavior, not condone it,” the summary states.
Investigators also describe multiple instances of alleged sexualized talk from Leach’s 2008 state Senate election campaign.
According to a campaign staffer, Leach would describe an event close to his campaign office for young mothers and toddlers as “MILF and cookies,” rather than its actual name “Milk and Cookies.”
According to a tweet from Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, “the Senate Democratic Caucus received a briefing of the investigation into allegations” on Wednesday.
Farnese is among several Senate Democrats calling on Leach to resign. The list also includes Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia; Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny; Sen. Maria Collett, D-Bucks; Sen. Tim Kearney, D-Chester; and Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, who has been one of Leach’s most vocal critics.
Yesterday, the Senate Democratic Caucus received a briefing of the investigation into allegations against Sen. Daylin Leach. After reflecting on what I learned, I am calling for Sen. Leach to resign, due to his history of improper conduct and the real harms his conduct caused.
— Larry Farnese (@larryfarnese) June 6, 2019
In its statement, Costa’s office described the report as “preliminary,” adding, “Members of the caucus have requested additional clarification in the review which will be compiled for a final version of the report.”
Leach rejected that characterization of the report in a statement released by his office Thursday.
“The summary itself talks about all of the witnesses interviewed, and all of the documents reviewed, and in fact [Costa] scheduled a special caucus meeting to present the findings of this obviously complete report,” Leach said. “This is the final report and Jay Costa knows it.”
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