The Washington State House of Representatives released the report of its investigation into complaints of demeaning, intimidating and bullying behavior by Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-26th) toward legislative staff — behavior strictly prohibited by House policies to maintain a respectful workplace.
Caldier said she received the report Dec. 16 and met with her attorney that weekend to work on appealing an investigation she considered unfair and typical of “how members are treated when they speak up.”
“She (Caldier) has a track record of casting aside responsibility in favor of blame,” wrote Sheryl Willert, an expert in employment law, in the 87-page report delivered to The House of Representatives.
The House contracted Willert in mid-December 2022 to investigate an incident between Caldier and a person the report called Individual No. 1 that occurred in the women’s restroom at the Spokane Airport following a meeting of the House Republican Caucus Nov. 18, 2022.
As Caldier was freshening her makeup at the mirror, she was approached by Individual No. 1 who greeted her. At first, Caldier, who is legally blind, said she didn’t recognize who was speaking. Once she learned whose voice it was, she reportedly said, “You are a horrible person, and we are done.”
Unknown to both parties at the time, there was a witness in the stall.
Caldier told KP News she didn’t see the need for an investigation. “If what I did was wrong, I would have totally admitted it, taken the punishment, and been done with it.”
After interviewing over a dozen current and former legislative staff members, and three sessions with Caldier and her attorney over several months, Willert concluded:
“Rep. Caldier’s interactions with House of Representative staff members, both partisan and nonpartisan ... demonstrates a pattern of behavior in which she lashes out at people, makes public statements that have the impact of demeaning and embarrassing individuals, and is generally disrespectful.”
Throughout the interview process, Willert reported that Caldier complained that she had been the subject of discriminatory conduct because the caucus and the Office of the Chief Clerk had failed to accommodate her disability. Caldier told her she found the conduct so egregious that she at one point retained Disability Rights Advocates.
Caldier is legally blind, as she shared in an interview with KP News (“Rep. Michelle Caldier Reveals Sight Impairment and Introduces Bill to Help Others,” KP News Feb. 2023).
Willert wrote that based on the information available there was no denial of reasonable accommodations.
Caldier received the report shortly before the press Friday, Dec. 15. Over the weekend she worked with her attorney to draft a response she then emailed to the press.
“There were no rules as to what we could or couldn’t do,” she said. “I felt given the context that it occurred after I left the caucus, and it was leadership’s top three people — that’s a very different thing — that I told the caucus attorney she was a terrible person.”
Caldier told KP News she emailed the House ethics and the chief clerk that a reporter wanted clarification on whether it was allowable to name individuals in the report or just state their position, and was advised by Chief Clerk Bernard Dean ‘that it could be interpreted as retaliatory if you provided that to the press.’
“I said, ‘Well, I’ve already sent it to the press.’ ”
At that point, Caldier said she was told, “ ‘In that case, we’re launching a second investigation on you.’ ”
A former legislative assistant reached out to Caldier after reading the news. Caldier said she told him he was Individual No. 4 in the report. He was never interviewed and has made a sworn statement to that effect.
Caldier’s appeal will be reviewed by the House Executive Rules Committee with members from both parties to determine what, if any, disciplinary actions will be taken. The second investigation is underway.
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