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Dems demand Utah party leaders investigate sexual misconduct accusations against lawmaker

By Kelcie Hartley - | Aug 11, 2022

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

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

Over 50 members of the Utah Democratic Party are fed up with “inaction” from UDP leaders regarding allegations of misconduct that have been made against Sen. Gene Davis of Salt Lake City.

During this year’s primary election, Davis ran for reelection to represent Senate District 3 but lost to Nate Blouin.

A letter was emailed to members of the press Wednesday by Katie Lynn Adams-Anderton, chair of Utah County Democrats, bared the signatures of over 50 Democrats who were “concerned” by the party’s inaction. Several Utah County Democratic representatives have their names on the letter including Young Democrats of Utah President Emma Fetzer, former Utah County Party Chair Daniel Hicken, House District 62 nominee Daniel Friend and more.

“The Utah Democratic Party has an obligation to act swiftly and decisively when allegations of sexual harassment come forward, whether those allegations are made through official channels or not,” Adams-Anderton wrote in the letter.

A special meeting of the UDP’s State Central Committee was called for by eight county chairs. According to Adams-Anderton, it takes a minimum of three county chairs for a Central Committee meeting to be called. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Granite Library in South Salt Lake.

Adams-Anderton’s letter called upon the State Central Committee to follow the example of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party and temporary suspend Davis from all party activities and meetings until a full investigation by the Utah State Senate is completed. It also petitioned for the State Executive Committee to classify the meeting as an emergency. If approved, the meeting will be rescheduled to an earlier date. Adams-Anderton said no response had been given from the state party as of Thursday afternoon.

In an interview with the Daily Herald, Adams-Anderton said she was the one who created the letter and initiated contact with other county chairs to call for the Central Committee meeting.

“I am the one who initiated this because I was really just disheartened,” she said. “The start of all this was when I was in the email chain for the Executive Committee, and I saw they weren’t going to act or do anything to resolve this issue. I spoke out within the email chain and said that we needed to do more. So, I said those things, and it was not well received by most of the members on the (committee). Then I started seeing other individuals calling for Davis to resign and calling for his suspension pending an investigation. I thought that’s probably what the state party needed to do. I started calling everyone I knew and the more people who found out what I was doing the more people wanted to get involved.”

The letter stated the Central Committee meeting will address “serious allegations” made against Davis by his former intern and campaign staffer, Sonia Weglinski.

“Ms. Weglinski’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Sen. Davis include multiple accounts of unwanted touching and other harassing behavior during her time as a State Senate intern and campaign staff member,” the letter reads. “Though the Party has a stated duty to take swift and decisive action in cases of misconduct, our leaders have failed to take any substantive measures regarding the allegations; the State Executive Committee refuses to do more than refer to prepared talking points.”

Adams-Anderton said the talking points were actions put forward by Diane Lewis, chair of the UDP, if Davis’ misconduct accusations were to get out.

Weglinski called out the UDP’s actions on her Instagram page a week ago. In a saved Instagram highlight, she said the UDP needed to be held responsible for all victims who’ve come forward in the past and questioned if she would be receiving positive feedback and treatment from the party if Davis had won in the primary elections.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported another female publicly accused Davis of inappropriate behavior in 2021, but no formal complaint or investigation occurred.

“I wasn’t involved with the party when the first accusation happened; I’m a transplant from Pennsylvania,” Adams-Anderton said. “However, I think the attitude has changed because of the prior activities when people came forward and complained of sexual harassment, and nothing was done. I think this just added to that fire and it’s now impossible to look away.”

The Tribune also reported that a “UDP spokesperson” said the party has to receive a formal complaint in order for an investigation to occur. Adam-Anderton said a formal complaint doesn’t need to be filed in order for the UDP to conduct an investigation.

“The state party is claiming that,” she said. “The state party has the ability to initiate an investigation. They don’t need a formal complaint. In my opinion, that is what they are hiding behind. It’s frustrating. They could have and should have done more.

“I just feel so disappointed that this is where this had to go. That these top members of the UDP are deciding to not do anything when so many people in the party want this taken care of. I think this process is a balance of power because if the State (Executive Committee) isn’t willing to do what the majority of the UPD wants, we have to have a balance of power and give it back to the majority to decide. I think that’s the balance of democracy. I just hope the state party can see this as a process and not an attack on the institution per say.”

Adams-Anderton is hopeful steps will be made in the right direction at the Central Committee meeting. She strongly believes the meeting should be held sooner than two weeks but she doesn’t have the power to declare it an emergency meeting.

“What will happen at the meeting is we will discuss what actions should be taken,” Adams-Anderton said. “My hope is we can get to a place where we can agree he needs temporary suspension from party activities and events until an investigation is completed. Our hope is the state party to be beholden to whatever the Utah Senate investigation results in. If there is evidence of wrongdoing, the Central Committee will meet again to decide what needs to be done. My hope is this starts a conversation of potentially updating our policies or some organizational movement to ensure stuff like this stops. I want to make sure that we set a tone that we’re going to start taking care of it and review our processes to see how we can do better.”

Thursday evening, UDP Communication Director Ben Anderson released a statement to the Daily Herald regarding the letter and Central Committee meeting.

“We have received a letter from a number of party members calling for a meeting of the Central Committee,” it said. “Because we want to be sure that everything we do is in line with our governing documents, our parliamentary and legal team are reviewing the letter along with the constitution and by-laws, to confirm that it meets the requirements for calling a Central Committee meeting. We are currently working on the logistics of the meeting under the assumption that it does.”

When reached Thursday evening, Lewis declined to comment. Other leaders within the UDP did not immediately return messages from the Daily Herald.


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