Considered a Threat to Others, Oregon Senator Must Give 12 Hours' Notice Before Going to Capitol
By Hillary Borrud
Oregon Sen. Brian Boquist can only report to the Capitol if he provides 12 hours' notice, so that officials can arrange for additional state troopers to ensure the safety of employees and the public.
A legislative committee issued that decision after lengthy deliberations on Monday, in response to Boquist's threats last month against Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and state troopers.
Boquist, a Dallas Republican, made the statements after Gov. Kate Brown hinted she would consider sending state police to round up Republicans if they walked out of the Capitol to kill a sweeping climate change bill.
In a June 19 floor speech, Boquist told Courtney, "If you send the state police to get me, hell is coming to visit you personally."
Later the same day, Boquist suggested in an interview captured by a KGW television crew that he would shoot and potentially kill any state police sent by the governor and Senate president to bring him back to the Capitol.
"This is what I told the superintendent," Boquist said, referring to OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton. "Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."
Oregon Republican senator threatens state troopers, warns them to 'come heavily armed'
Amid Oregon Senate Republicans' threats to walk out of the Capitol this week, Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, suggested in a television interview Wednesday that he would shoot and potentially kill any state trooper sent to haul him unwillingly back to the building.
Republicans ultimately shut down the Senate by denying Democrats a quorum for more than a week, before returning for two frenzied days of work before the midnight June 30 deadline to end the session. State police phoned the missing Republicans but did not make serious efforts to round up or arrest any of them.
Boquist heeded Courtney's wishes on his first day back in Salem and stayed off the Senate floor. But he did take part in Senate business on the final day of the session, prompting Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, to walk out until Republicans agreed to have Boquist leave the floor.
An outside lawyer hired by the Legislature to handle workplace issues determined on June 25 that Boquist's statements "constitute credible threats of violence directed at the senate president and Oregon state police." Lawyer Brenda Baumgart also found that the threats violated the Legislature's rule against workplace harassment and suggested that the Legislature bar Boquist from returning to the Capitol until an investigation is complete.
"The customary and best practice is to not allow the person who has threatened violence to return to the workplace until the employer can ensure that employees are safe and the threats will not be carried out or incite others to violence," Baumgart wrote. She noted that Boquist has not taken back the statements, although he apologized to Courtney.
However, the four-member Senate Special Committee on Conduct decided against temporarily banning Boquist from the Capitol. The committee is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, but even the Democrats were wary of such a ban. Sen. James Manning Jr., D-Eugene, proposed asking Boquist to voluntarily stay away while investigators complete their work but the three other senators on the panel did not support the proposal.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said he shares an office wall with Boquist and does not feel threatened by him. Since Baumgart did not interview Boquist, Knopp said it is impossible to know what the senator's frame of mind was when he made the statements against Courtney and the state police. Prozanski pointed out it would have been difficult for Baumgart to interview Boquist, given that the senator joined other Republicans in fleeing the state to avoid state police jurisdiction.
Knopp and Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby, both said they needed more information before they would consider barring Boquist from the Capitol, including specifics about why state employees or other lawmakers feel threatened by Boquist. But Prozanski and Baumgart said it would be unwise for the Legislature to do nothing until Baumgart completes her investigation of Boquist's statements. That could take another month or two, Baumgart said, and only then might the committee consider whether to discipline Boquist. Meanwhile, the Legislature would knowingly be maintaining a workplace where some people intimidated or threatened. "This type of situation is grave, it is egregious," she said.
Prozanski suggested the committee find that Boquist's statements were credible threats when he made them on June 19 but have since ceased to be threats because the angst and anxiety at the Capitol have died down and Boquist has returned on multiple occasions without incident. Again, the committee could not agree.
Olsen suggested Boquist's threats might simply be unwise statements made in the heat of a legislative disagreement, similar to Olsen's own reference to his colleagues' "hypocrisy" during a floor speech for which he was later chastised. "On the (Senate) floor, we sometimes get heated."
Ultimately, it was Olsen's motion to require Boquist to notify the secretary of the senate 12 hours before he returns to the Capitol and boost the state police presence that achieved unanimous support.
Boquist appeared briefly before the committee on Monday and read a statement but did not take any questions. After thanking state police and legislative employees for their "service and professionalism," he announced that he and his wife -- who is a member of his staff -- filed federal complaints against the Oregon Senate and that he filed a lawsuit on Friday.
The lawsuit, which Boquist said he plans to amend, appears to focus on public records that legislative officials have told Boquist in writing do not exist. In an initial court filing, Boquist said his family and staff have received threats as media reports brought national attention to his statements.
"My family received multiple death threats, formal cases were opened with law enforcement," Boquist said. "Neighbors reported late night prowlers. And the death threats continue as do the harassing telephone messages."
A deputy chief at the Dallas Police Department could not immediately be reached Monday regarding whether the agency has investigated threats against the Boquists.
(c)2019 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)