State lawmaker resigns leadership post amid sexual harassment allegations

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A state lawmaker who is facing scrutiny over past allegations of sexual harassment was removed Thursday from his ranking member position on a House committee, and resigned his position as assistant floor leader.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, was removed from his position on the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee and agreed to House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen's request that he immediately resign his position as assistant floor leader, according to a statement released by Kristiansen.

"Given the current environment right now my role as a member of leadership is a distraction," Manweller wrote in response to reporters seeking comment. "Right now I plan to focus solely on my district and step away from my leadership roles."

A spokesman for Kristiansen didn't offer additional details on what sparked Thursday's decision. But the move comes the same week that Manweller, who is a political science professor at Central Washington University, was placed on paid leave by the school because of a new investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct.

Manweller has been the subject of new reports related to 2012 and 2013 investigations of him by the school into allegations of sexual harassment. He's denied those allegations, along with other recent allegations by women who have told the Legislature interactions with Manweller made them uncomfortable.

The university never determined the previous allegations against Manweller to be substantiated, though school officials formally reprimanded Manweller at least once, saying he had problems maintaining boundaries with students. Investigators also concluded in the 2013 report that there was evidence Manweller broke CWU's sexual harassment rules.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan and others have called on Manweller to resign. Manweller noted that Kristiansen did not ask him to resign his seat and he said Thursday that he has no plans to do so.