Amid investigation, Manweller back in leadership role

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State Rep. Matt Manweller was elected in April to a leadership position, six months after being stripped of another leadership position in the wake of a Central Washington University investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the legislator. That investigation is still ongoing.

Manweller was stripped of his role as the top Republican member on the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee and resigned from a House Republican leadership position in December after then-House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen called on Manweller to step down.

The decision came shortly after news broke of current and former investigations conducted by CWU into allegations that Manweller, who works as a professor there, sexually harassed two students.

In a statement at the time, Kristiansen did not explain the decision to strip Manweller of one leadership position and ask him to step down from another, only offering that, “Leadership will continue to evaluate facts and monitor any new information.”

Rep. J.T Wilcox, R-Yelm, had been recently elected to replace Kristiansen as top House Republican when Manweller was elected to be vice-chair of the Select Committee on Pension Policy.

Wilcox declined to comment on why he did not push back against Manweller maintaining a leadership position during the ongoing sexual harassment investigation, as Kristiansen had done.

“Rep. Wilcox will reserve comment until the report is released and he's had the opportunity to review and discuss it with Rep. Manweller and his Leadership team,” wrote House Republican Communications Director John Handy in an email.

Central Washington University obtained a final report July 6 on its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Matt Manweller. University spokespeople would not comment on when the university would make the report public.

Manweller criticized the investigation this week, calling it a “witch hunt,” that “took everyday events of me just being kind or personable and twisting them to force it into this MeToo narrative,” in an interview with Todd Herman of MyNorthwest.

CWU has conducted two previous sexual harassment investigations against Manweller. Though the investigator in both cases found evidence to suggest that Manweller broke school policy on sexual harassment, neither investigation substantiated the central claims against Manweller. Manweller was never disciplined for the previous investigations and instead was later promoted.

An investigation in 2012 centered on the account of a student who alleged she came into Manweller's office in 2006 to discuss a research paper when Manweller allegedly propositioned and kissed her. The second investigation, in 2013, focused on a student who the university said reported receiving inappropriate messages from Manweller, though the student later said university officials had misunderstood complaints she made against another student.

Other stories had also recently surfaced accusing Manweller of sexual misconduct. One such story came from Manweller's first wife, Oralynn Reeves, who had Manweller as a high school teacher when she was 16. Reeves was 18 and allegedly a high school senior when she and Manweller started dating. Reeves also alleged she was 17 when they first kissed.

Manweller has denied any wrongdoing, and has said that Reeves was 18 and had graduated from high school when the two developed a romantic relationship.

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