Aug 5, 2022 - Politics

State Sen. Gene Davis suspended from Democratic-sponsored events amid new sexual harassment claims

Sen. Gene Davis.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, looks on during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, June 13, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP)

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party is suspending Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, from Democratic-sponsored events amid claims that he sexually harassed one of his former interns.

Driving the news: Sonia Weglinski, who worked as Davis' legislative intern between January and March 2022, took to social media Wednesday night to share her experience working with the Democratic senator.

What they're saying: "The Salt Lake County Democratic Party does not tolerate any impermissible behavior, sexual misconduct of any nature, physical or verbal violence, and all violations that perpetuate unsafe environments. No one should be fearful to participate in our Party, especially to be an intern for a long-standing Senator," according to a statement from the Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chair Eva Lopez.

  • Lopez said the Party had not yet received any formal complaints from Weglinski, but invited her or anyone else to submit them.

Details: In an eight-slide Instagram post, Weglinski alleged Davis would "constantly invade my personal boundaries," put his arms around her waist and play with her toes while she was sitting down.

  • "I developed a close yet professional relationship with my legislator. However those professional lines soon became blurred, and I did not realize it nor truly accepted it until months later," she wrote.
  • Weglinski also claimed on May 10, she took photos and videos of Davis on his front porch while working on his re-election campaign.
  • Weglinski said Davis asked if he could wipe dirt off her buttocks after she sat down on the porch of his home. After saying no, Weglinski said Davis asked "Are you sure," grabbed a towel and did it anyway before she could sit back down.
  • After he was done, Weglinski said he asked her: "Did that make you uncomfortable?"

Of note: While Axios does not typically reveal the name of victims of sexual harassment, Weglinski shared her identity and allegations on her public Instagram account.

  • Public records confirm Weglinski worked as Davis' legislative intern this year.

Go deeper: Weeks after the May incident, Weglinski said she told Davis' campaign manager, who she said used to serve as a Salt Lake County Democratic Party chair, about the situation but was brushed off and asked why she didn't confront Davis.

  • In a statement, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said he learned of the online allegations Wednesday and said they were being taken seriously. "We are in the process of looking into it," he said.
  • In an interview with Axios, state Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said, "I hope this young woman knows that she's supported and she gets the services she needs to move forward."
  • She added no elected official should invade the personal space of their employees or interns. If they do, they should resign, Romero said.

The other side: Davis did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Flashback: This isn't the first time Davis has faced sexual harassment accusations by a legislative staffer.

  • Last year, a former legislative staffer, Elizabeth Converse, claimed in a Facebook post that Davis put his arm around her and made inappropriate comments to her, according to KUTV.

Referring to last year's allegation, Weglinski slammed the Utah Democratic Party for caring "more about protecting the establishment than having accountability within their own party."

  • "If the UDP had done something concrete with the sexual harassment allegation from last year … my experience with Sen. Davis could've been prevented," she wrote.
  • Weglinski did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Utah Democratic Party said in a statement they hadn't received official complaints about Davis and did not have any involvement in the Legislature's internship process.

  • Party officials added an investigation could not move forward until a formal complaint was made.
  • "Should such a complaint be officially made to the party, we will follow the process outlined in our Anti-Harassment Policies and Procedures to fully investigate the claims," party officials said in the statement.

Background: The longtime Democrat recently lost his Democratic primary race against clean air advocate Nate Blouin in June.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Sen. Adams, Rep. Romero and the Utah Democratic Party.

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