Harassment case dominates opening day of General Assembly

By Dionte Coleman

INDIANAPOLIS—Attorney General Curtis Hill attempted to use the first day of the 121st session of the Indiana General Assembly to pitch his message about how preventing crime needs the cooperation of the whole community.

But it was pre-empted by the voice of woman yelling “resign.” That voice echoing from the fourth floor balcony of the Statehouse came from State Rep. Maria Candelaria Reardon, one of four women who accused Hill of groping her at an end-of-session gathering in March.

Attorney General Curtis Hill anti-crime message was disrupted by a call to resign over groping allegations. Photo by Eddie Drews, TheStatehouseFile.com

Later, Reardon, a Democrat from Munster, said she was tired of the hypocrisy of the state’s top lawyer going about his business as if nothing happened.

“I might have gone off script… I had just had about enough of it and he needs to, as I have said throughout this time, accept responsibility apologize and resign,” Reardon said.

That event capped an otherwise routine organization day which saw House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, again assuming the leadership post which he has held since 2004, and Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, taking over as the first new president pro tempore of the Senate in more than a decade.

Both Bosma and Bray used the brief opening day session to talk about goals for the 2019 session which begins Jan. 3. The agenda includes workforce development programs, increasing teacher pay and providing resources for school safety even as the state deals with budget challenges.

Bosma welcomed Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in Michigan in September. He received a standing ovation from his colleagues.

But the focus of the day’s activities was the meeting of the Legislative Council, which is composed of leaders of both parties and other members, where they approved a resolution to recommend that the legislature adopt new guidelines to combat sexual harassment.

Attorney Hannah Kaufman Joseph, who represents the four women who accuse Hill of groping them, said the proposal that calls for new training and guidelines for investigating complaints is a first step.

“There’s recognition that there’s a problem,” Joseph said. “But I don’t like the level of inconsistency.”

She said everyone working at the Statehouse, including state employees, lobbyists and lawmakers should be protected from being harassed.

A special prosecutor and the state’s inspector general reviewed the allegations against Hill and found that the women were credible, but didn’t think a jury would convict in a trial.

Reardon noted that officials including Gov. Eric Holcomb – like Hill a Republican – as well as all legislative leaders have called for Hill to resign.

“Why is an elected official not held to the same standard or I would even go far as to say an elected official should be held to a higher standard,” Reardon said.

Gabrielle McLemore, who works for Indiana Senate Democrats, found it ironic that Hill talked about how everyone deserves a safe workplace in his crime prevention pitch.

“But I think it’s an important notice for him to abide by his own teachings that we all deserve a safe workplace too,” McLemore said.

The guidelines will be referred to the ethics committees of both chambers for further action. They won’t become part of the legislature’s policies until they are approved by lawmakers.

Dionte Coleman is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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