By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press
OLYMPIA — A Washington state Senate inquiry found no evidence that sexist or racist statements were made by Democratic lawmakers during caucus meetings earlier this year, a report released Monday states.
The inquiry was launched after Democratic Sen. Mona Das told a Kent Chamber of Commerce audience in June about experiencing “hate, sexism, racism and misogyny” during closed-door Democratic meetings.
Das, whose family moved to the U.S. from India when she was an infant, later said the comments by lawmakers were not overt and that she was referencing coded language and implied bias.
The report on the inquiry was released by the secretary of the Senate.
Tara Parker, the Senate’s human resources officer, interviewed more than a dozen lawmakers for the inquiry into whether policies on workplace conduct were violated.
The inquiry also sought to determine whether senators observed or knew of conduct that would indicate unconscious bias against any individual or communities.
Parker wrote that Das told her that she regretted the language she used at the June event and “did not mean to suggest that her fellow caucus members used overtly racist and sexist terms or expressions.”
Das told Parker that she was referring to a few colleagues, whom she declined to name, who were “dismissive and disrespectful” during conversations about legislation that could affect communities of color.
Several senators told Parker that they were upset with Das’ statements because her assertions were “untrue and disparaging” and they also said her reference to caucus room debates was “a breach of professional trust that may inhibit open and candid exchanges moving forward,” the report states.
On the issue of institutional and unconscious bias, Parker wrote that senators of color expressed varying views regarding Das’ assertion that it was a significant problem in the Democratic Caucus.
“All of them agreed that the Senate, like all institutions, sometimes reflects attitudes and assumptions that undermine the interests and concerns of those who have been historically marginalized on the basis of sex, race and sexual orientation,” Parker wrote.
Das was out of state and not immediately available for a phone interview, but in a written statement said she looked forward to working with her colleagues “to address institutional racism in our government and throughout Washington.”
In a written statement, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said the Democratic caucus has worked to pass policies to address institutional bias, but “we can always do more.”
“It is our job to continue to move the Legislature forward and foster an environment that ensures all voices are heard,” he wrote.