Alaska Legislature

Westlake will not heed calls to resign over misconduct allegations

Rep. Dean Westlake, who was asked by Democratic leaders to resign after reports surfaced last week that he had behaved inappropriately with female aides, said late Tuesday he plans to remain in office.

"Many people in the past few days have called for me to resign. I have thought seriously about it, and I have asked for counsel from friends, family, Native leaders, elders and God," the Kiana Democrat said in a statement. "I have decided not to."

Westlake was accused by seven current and former female aides late last week of making repeated unwanted sexual advances and behaving inappropriately during this year's legislative sessions. He is in the first year of his term.

[Seven aides at Alaska Capitol say legislator made unwanted advances and comments]

The women described the behavior after one of them went public and recounted unwanted touching and sexual comments in a letter to legislative leaders. He was asked to resign by leaders of the House majority coalition and the chairman of the Alaska Democratic Party. The Juneau Empire also called for his resignation in an editorial.

"I want to once again apologize to any woman whom I have made uncomfortable with either my actions or words. I never intended to hurt anyone, but I understand now that I have," the statement said. "I want to thank anyone who came forward. Doing so required strength and bravery."

The women, who asked not to be identified for fear of professional repercussions, described Westlake giving lingering hugs, making sexual comments, asking for dates and touching them inappropriately.

In his statement, Westlake said that he was "re-examining" his actions.

"I used to think of certain actions as friendly or funny, but I have come to understand that they can be offensive and intrusive," he said. "I will be an ally and supporter of women moving forward."

[2 investigations into state Sen. Wilson wrap up in his favor]

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019.

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