Groundhog Day

Wednesday morning, the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Special Investigation Committee announced it will release today its findings in an ongoing saga surrounding alleged sexual harassment, wrongful termination and improper use of state funds.

The findings will mainly center on the termination of a legislative assistant who says Rep. Dan Kirby (R-Tulsa) sexually harassed her in 2016. Rep. Will Fourkiller (D-Stilwell) was also under investigation for alleged sexual harassment in 2015. Results of the investigations are slated to be made public at 1 p.m. at the State Capitol.

A Groundhog Day tradition (satire)

According to purple-crayon graffiti unearthed during Capitol renovations purportedly matching the handwriting of Gov. Alfalfa Bill Murray, special conditions are rumored to apply to the findings of any legislative body when released publicly on Groundhog Day.

If the committee’s findings cast a shadow on the floor of Room 206, then the legislators under investigation will be found culpable for wrongdoing, as the shining sun lays bare that which the accused sought to keep shrouded in darkness.

On the other hand, should the investigation’s findings fail to cast a shadow, the allegations of wrongdoing will skulk back into the obscurity from whence they came. For the remainder of the session, lawmakers will be sent a message that it’s open season to sexually harass every poor aide, page, lobbyist and state employee within catcall-distance of the rotunda.

Timeline of events (factual)

The events surrounding Kirby’s investigation in particular are fraught with more twists and turns than a subterranean rodent’s living quarters.

As such, the timeline below intends to illustrate the convoluted chronology of claims, actions and redoubles that make this case such an auspicious lead up to the 56th Legislature.

  • April 2015: A page alleges Fourkiller made her “feel uncomfortable.” Fourkiller later told The Oklahoman he was aware of the complaint at the time, and that he apologized. Pages are teenage students from around the state of Oklahoma.
  • Nov. 20, 2015: Hollie Anne Bishop, 28, is fired from her job as legislative assistant for Checotah-born real estate agent Kirby, 58.
  • January 2016: Bishop submits written demand for compensation for harassment and wrongful termination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • October 2016: A settlement is reached during private mediation, according to a subsequent interview with an attorney representing Bishop.
  • Nov. 8, 2016: Kirby wins re-election in HD 75.
  • November 2016: Former House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) authorizes settlement payments to Bishop and her attorneys; Hickman’s term as a state lawmaker officially ends.
  • Nov. 22, 2016: Two payments totaling $44,500 were made using taxpayer funds, one to Bishop for $28,414.20 (invoiced as “Legal Settlements”) and another to Bishop’s attorneys for $16,085.80 (filed under housekeeping and cleaning supplies).
  • Dec. 12, 2016: Then-House Speaker-designate Charles McCall (R-Atoka) announces Kirby as chairman of the House Business, Commerce & Tourism committee.
  • Dec. 21, 2016: The Oklahoman breaks the story about the secret settlement. A week later, Kirby would claim this story was the first he had heard of the settlement monies being paid out to Bishop.
  • Dec. 23, 2016: House Democratic Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) presents a letter containing a list of questions about Kirby’s settlement as well as authorizing the investigation of any and all formal complaints filed against current House members to McCall; Kirby resigns via phone call and email to McCall’s office.
  • Dec. 28, 2016: Kirby rescinds his resignation, claiming it was “hasty” and based on “bad advice.” He argues it was illegal under Oklahoma statute because he failed to submit an official letter of resignation to the Secretary of State.
  • Dec. 29, 2016: McCall announces in a press release that he will authorize the bipartisan House Rules Committee to investigate the wrongful-termination settlement as well as all prior sexual harassment allegations against current House members.
  • Jan. 3: McCall officially becomes House Speaker, announces membership of House Rules Committee tasked with investigating Kirby’s case and potential others.
  • Jan. 5: Kirby states he supports the investigation and looks forward to clearing his name.
  • Jan. 10: Fourkiller, 44, is named in a House press release as having had a formal complaint filed against him for comments made to a House page in April 2015 and, as such, is included in the investigation.
  • Jan. 11: House Rules Committee meets to adopt special rules regarding the investigation process and schedule.
  • Jan. 17: Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette), chairman of the House Special Investigation Committee, states in a press release that the committee is holding its meetings in private “… to protect the confidential information of victims and un-elected witnesses — not to protect lawmakers.”
  • Jan. 18: A second woman, Carol Johnson, comes out against Kirby and speaks to the investigation committee. Johnson, 37, claims Kirby sexually harassed her via text-message requests for nude pics and made unwelcome comments about her body. Kirby claimed the texts were consensual, that she had sent him photos previously and that the two were friends.
  • Jan. 19: Kirby is assigned to the Banking, Financial Services & Pensions subcommittee.
  • Jan. 23: Kirby refuses to participate in the investigation committee’s closed-door meetings, stating in a press release that he would attend if the hearings were “… an open, transparent, and fair process like anyone accused of wrongdoing would be allowed.” Cockroft responds to Kirby’s refusal, stating in a press release: “If he believes he did nothing wrong, he has nothing to hide.”
  • Jan. 24: McCall suspends Kirby’s chairmanship of the Business, Commerce & Tourism committee.
  • Jan. 26: Kirby appears before the House investigation committee.
  • Feb. 1: The House Rules Committee issues a press release stating it will announce the findings of its investigation against Kirby and Fourkiller on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. Also, McCall announces creation of the House Expenditure Oversight Committee, created on preliminary recommendations from the investigation committee and designed to review and approve certain House expenditures that exceed $15,000.

Punitive measures possible

Kirby’s term limit is 2020. The 2017 legislative session begins Monday.

Regardless of the investigation’s results, House members would need a two-thirds majority vote to forcibly remove Kirby from office, although other punitive measures may be taken.