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Alaska Legislature

Report: Outgoing Juneau Democratic state House member faced sexual harassment complaint

Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, sits on a bench in the Capitol’s entryway last year. (Marc Lester / ADN)

JUNEAU — A Juneau Democratic state House member's announcement this week that he would not seek re-election came three months after a woman filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.

The Juneau media outlet that employs the woman filed the complaint against Rep. Justin Parish in late January, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Edgmon's statement did not identify the outlet nor describe Parish's alleged conduct. But a Juneau Empire story on the complaint references "a year and a half of unwanted public encounters that began before Parish's election to the Legislature," in November 2016.

"The encounters, documented in depth by the woman, included unwanted attention, flirting, phone calls and touching on the arms and torso. The woman repeatedly requested that he stop calling her and touching her," the Empire's story said.

The media outlet where the woman works launched its own investigation into the legislator's behavior.

At the outlet's request, Parish completed "additional training" in response to the complaint, Edgmon's statement said. That "closed this matter," Edgmon's statement said, without a finding of harassment under the Legislature's policy.

Parish did not respond to a request for comment. House leaders canceled their daily floor session and two of the three hearings they had scheduled for Wednesday.

The Empire's story was published late Tuesday, just hours after Parish announced that he would not seek re-election.

One of his former aides, Rob Edwardson, has filed to run for Parish's seat. Edwardson didn't respond to a request for comment about the complaint against his former boss.

Parish is the third member of the House's mostly-Democratic majority to be accused in recent months of inappropriate sexual advances.

Former Kiana Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake resigned in December after being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. And former Bethel Democratic Rep. Zach Fansler resigned in February after a woman accused him of slapping her during a romantic encounter in a Juneau hotel room.

A committee of legislative leaders on Tuesday approved two rewritten sexual harassment and misconduct policies.

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