OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House voted along partisan lines Tuesday to seat a Republican lawmaker who rescinded a letter of resignation he submitted after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.
The GOP-controlled chamber voted to seat Rep. Dan Kirby of Tulsa following a debate between Democrats and Republicans in which Kirby denied the allegations and said he acted too quickly when he submitted a letter of resignation to House Speaker-designate Charles McCall, R-Atoka.
"I want to say publicly, and I should have done this from the beginning — I have done nothing wrong," Kirby told members of the chamber. "I made my decision hastily to resign based upon some pressure, a lot of pressure."
Kirby is named in a sexual harassment complaint by a former legislative assistant that resulted in a $44,500 settlement on Nov. 22. The quietly arranged settlement, first reported by The Oklahoman, included a more than $28,000 payment to the woman and more than $16,000 to her attorneys.
The woman contended she was fired without explanation in retaliation for reporting the alleged harassment. But Kirby said he did not fire the woman and that an earlier investigation had produced no evidence of sexual harassment.
Attorneys for the House have said the complaint against Kirby was settled without his knowledge or input and that there was no admission of wrongdoing. The attorneys said the settlement was approved by then-House Speaker Jeff Hickman and House leaders.
McCall has asked the House Rules Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the payment. But Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, asked that Kirby's name be excluded from a motion to seat all House members who were elected in the Nov. 8 election and had taken the oath of office. Perryman said there are questions about the legal effect of Kirby's letter of resignation.
"We just want you to delay the seating of a member until those facts are determined," Perryman said.
Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said he believes Kirby's resignation letter had no legal authority because it was not presented to Gov. Mary Fallin as required by law.
The House defeated a motion by Perryman to publish Kirby's resignation letter and its rescission in the House journal, but approved a motion to publish the resignation letter of former Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole. Newell was re-elected in the Nov. 8 election but announced on Dec. 2 that he would resign to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.
House members seated themselves at an organizational meeting where they formally elected McCall as speaker. At a separate organizational meeting, the Oklahoma Senate named Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, as Senate president pro tem. Schulz is the first senator from western Oklahoma to lead the Senate in more than 50 years.
The 2017 Oklahoma Legislature formally convenes on Feb. 6.