Senator Quits Credit Union Job Amid Harassment Claims
Missouri State Senator Paul LeVota (D-Independence), has resigned from his Senate seat and position as a leadership development trainer at the $2 billion CommunityAmerica Credit Union amid sexual harassment allegations from a college student intern that he has repeatedly denied.
“I have tendered my resignation from the Missouri Senate effective Aug. 23, 2015,” LeVota wrote in an email statement to CU Times on Aug. 4. “Since the Missouri Senate is a part-time position, I have also resigned from my other part-time position in the private sector to take a full-time opportunity.”
That part-time position was at the Lenexa, Kan.-based CommunityAmerica CU, where LeVota worked for more than three years. Before that, he also worked as an independent training consultant for various organizations across the nation, including credit union associations, AT&T and H&R Block.
“It is not in the best interest of my family, myself or the Senate to spend time and focus on dealing with the veracity of false allegations and character assassination against me,” he wrote.
His resignations follow the disclosure of two reports that investigated sexual harassment claims made against the Senator by a University of Central Missouri student intern who worked in LeVota's Senate office.
These allegations do not involve his work with CommunityAmerica CU.
The Missouri Senate's report did not name the intern, but the Kansas City Star identified her as Alissa Hembree.
The Senate report said LaVota allegedly sent Hembree unwelcomed text messages, made sexual advances to her that she rejected, and then retaliated against her in the Senate office and called her derogatory names.
Some of the text messages from LaVota, though not overtly sexual, were described by Hembree as unwelcome, with content that described her as “perfect and beautiful,” according to the Senate report.
Additionally, after LaVota and Hembree attended a lobbyist event at a local bar, the Senator suggested she stay the night at his duplex so she wouldn't have to drive home. Hembree, who is of legal drinking age, admitted to having a few drinks with dinner that night. She also described LaVota as being intoxicated.
According to the Senate report, LaVota twice made the comment, “If you want to sleep with me tonight, I won't tell you no.” After Hembree rejected that proposition, LaVota apologized. Nevertheless, he continued to act in a flirtatious manner, according to the report.
Hembree also reported LaVota retaliated against her by shunning her, not giving her assignments and calling her derogatory names.
“The student intern reported she felt isolated and subjected to the rumor mill around the Capitol that she was in trouble and should be avoided,” according to the Senate report.
The university also conducted a Title IX investigation regarding the sexual harassment allegations. Although the Senate report did not draw conclusions, the university report did.
“The preponderance of evidence substantiates the investigators’ finding that Senator LeVota directed unwelcome sexual advances and comments toward Ms. Hembree,” according to a Kansas City Star article that published details of the university's report.
“As I stated before, I did not engage in harassment of any intern in the Missouri Senate,” LaVota wrote in his email response to CU Times. “At no time did I act inappropriately, through text messages or in person, with this intern or anyone else. I never asked her to do anything inappropriate; I never contacted her after hours, I never made sexual advances toward her, and I never retaliated against her in any way. I willingly cooperated with Senate investigators during this process and the investigation found no proof of misconduct.”
Even though CommunityAmerica CU confirmed that LaVota resigned from his position, as a practice it does not discuss personnel matters that are not part of an employment verification or referral inquiry, Amanda Clark, CommunityAmerica's public relations manager, said in a prepared statement.
LaVota was elected to the 11th Senate District seat in eastern Jackson County, Missouri in January 2013.
In 2003, he was elected as a Missouri state representative and served as the House Minority Leader from 2007 to 2010.
“In my entire time as a public official, I have focused on issues to help people such as expanding health insurance, raising the minimum wage and equal pay for all,” LaVota continued. “I want to thank all of my supporters over my years in public service and I look forward to joining the ranks as a private individual and contributing to my community in that way.”