House speaker defends handling of sex harassment allegations

By WPRO News and the Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Rhode Island’s Democratic House speaker is defending his handling of allegations of sexual harassment at the State House, amid criticism that he didn’t do enough to address it.

Speaker Nicholas Mattiello removed Democratic Rep. Cale Keable as chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee Monday. The move came after a months-old email to Mattiello surfaced in which Democratic Rep. Katherine Kazarian accused Keable of sexual harassment.

Mattiello told WPRO’s Gene Valicenti that he was taken aback to receive the email from Kazarian. He said he was aware of a personal falling out between Kazarian and Keable, and honored the young East Providence Representative’s request to keep Keable away.

“She never asked to go forward with any type of  complaint, in fact I know very specifically that she’s always wanted to maintain her privacy in this. But she wanted Representative Keable to stay away from her. So I acquiesced to her request and I accommodated. I talked to Representative Keable. I said ‘stay away,'” he said.

Mattiello called the email leaked to WPRI this week a major distraction. He blamed the leak on State House progressives out to seize control of the legislative process and run the state.

Multiple groups criticized Mattiello, with the Rhode Island Democratic Party Women’s Caucus calling Keable’s removal “too little, too late.”

Mattiello told WPRI he had been given no evidence of sexual harassment and it’s not “state house business.”

Another female lawmaker told Mattiello she was sexually harassed in January.

Mattiello’s office says informing the speaker doesn’t constitute an official complaint and no formal complaints have been filed with human resources.

Listen to “10/31/18 RI House Speaker Nick Mattielo” on Spreaker.