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Report: Maryland lawmaker made inappropriate sexual comments but no evidence to support sexual assault claim

ANNAPOLIS, MD - MARCH 22: Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore) works during the legislative session on March 22, 2016 in Annapolis, MD. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

An ethics panel that investigated sexual misconduct charges against a veteran Maryland lawmaker thought the delegate made inappropriate sexual comments but was unable to decide if a 14-year-old sexual assault claim against him was true, according to a report released late Friday.

Del. Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore City) was stripped of his leadership positions by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) at the close of the investigation last month. But the report from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics was not released until Friday.

“The committee found that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Delegate Anderson engaged in conduct contrary to the General Assembly’s Anti-Harassment Policy,” the report reads.

The committee said it could not “assess the veracity of the conflicting witness statements” involving the allegations that Anderson assaulted a legislative staffer in 2004.

Anderson, who served in the legislature from 1983 to 1995 and again since 2003, has denied all wrongdoing.

The committee recommended that Anderson receive one-on-one anti-harassment training and that the training for all legislators be revised and strengthened.

The report offers a timeline of the committee’s eight-month investigation, which began in January, just weeks before the start of the legislative session.

The committee held six closed- door hearings, interviewed 22 people and along with an outside investigator spent more than 400 hours investigating the claims.

According to the report, seven women made claims of sexual misconduct against Anderson but only two cooperated with the investigation.

Lisae C. Jordan, the executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the state needed to look at what it needs to do “so that victims feel comfortable coming forward” and participating in investigations.

Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Montgomery), who led the effort by the women’s caucus to overhaul the legislature’s anti-sexual harassment policy, said victims clearly need advocates to shepherd them through the process.

“When this many women have informal complaints but only two” offer sworn testimony, “the system is broken,” she said.

After reading the report, Jordan said she was pleased that the Speaker decided to strip Anderson of his leadership position, saying the action will go a long way in changing the culture of the General Assembly. But she also said she was disappointed that the committee’s report did not reveal more about the conduct it was examining.

“We are at a place where we want to educate,” she said. “To know more about what is considered inappropriate would improve the culture.”

According to the report, Anderson’s remarks were “jokes and comments of a sexual nature.”