After hours of testimony from alleged victims and a report from an independent investigator, the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended to Busch (D-Anne Arundel) that Anderson undergo additional “intensive” training to prevent harassment, beyond the sessions that all Maryland state legislators are required to attend.
The panel has the authority to recommend punishments ranging from a verbal warning to expulsion from the House. A report on the committee’s findings will be released in coming weeks.
“It’s an important first step in changing the culture in Annapolis to discipline someone for sexual harassment,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “But it’s impossible to say if this is proportionate or not without knowing the committee’s findings.”
The woman who accused Anderson of the 2004 assault said the punishment was too light and dismissed the panel’s recommendations as “outrageous.”
“I’m angry on all levels,” said the woman, who was working in the General Assembly at the time of the alleged assault. “It’s not acceptable. It’s not enough. He doesn’t deserve to serve.”
Anderson, who served in the legislature from 1983 to 1995 and again since 2003, has denied all wrongdoing.
On Friday, he referred questions to Busch’s office. An aide to Busch said Anderson planned to comply with the punishment.
Anderson’s case is the first major sexual harassment allegation to be addressed by the General Assembly since the #MeToo movement began and the legislature adopted new procedures to deal with what some female legislators and staff members have called a pervasive culture of sexual harassment. Before last fall, the General Assembly had no method of tracking sexual harassment complaints against legislators.
Some Baltimore-area legislators, including Del. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), had pushed for a quick resolution to the allegations against Anderson so that if he was found guilty by the committee he could withdraw from the November ballot ahead of a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline.
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore City) called those efforts a rush to judgment against Anderson akin to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till.
On Friday, Washington said in a Facebook post that Anderson’s punishment was “too little and too late” and a “slap in the face to these women and the #MeToo movement.”
Five women have said they spoke with the legislature’s independent investigator about Anderson’s behavior. Four described allegations against Anderson to the Baltimore Sun; the fifth, a legislator, declined to reveal details about her testimony.
Busch launched the ethics probe in January, after the most serious allegation was brought to his attention. It was the first time he had taken such an action in his 16 years as speaker.
“I think the process passed in legislation this year has worked,” he said in a statement Friday. “We try to strike the careful balance of the need for public transparency with the necessity of protecting the victims.”
The woman who accused Anderson of sexual assault filed a police report in December 2017 that said he locked her in a room in 2004 and performed oral sex on her against her will.
Another woman accused Anderson of kissing her without her permission. On Friday, she said the secrecy surrounding the ethics probe left her with questions about how thoroughly the women’s complaints were reviewed. By law, ethics proceedings must be kept confidential.
“I can only hope that the investigation was detailed, because there was no transparency to the process,” she said.
The Washington Post generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault without their consent.
Del. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), who co-chairs the ethics panel along with state Sen. James E. “Ed” DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel), declined to comment, saying: “We have to maintain the integrity of the process.” DeGrange did not return a call seeking comment.
Anderson has chaired the Baltimore City legislative delegation for a dozen years. Until Friday, he also chaired the House’s criminal justice subcommittee.
Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), who has spoken about the silence surrounding sexual harassment in the legislature, led the women’s caucus this year as the new anti-harassment laws were enacted and helped publish a report about harassment. She said there was little evidence that remedial sexual harassment training was effective in changing behavior.
“But what does work is cultural change, and stripping Delegate Anderson of his leadership positions is sending the right message: that sexual-harassment will not be tolerated or rewarded,” Kelly said in a text message.
Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.