House looks into incident’ with Berkeley delegate
Officials with the House of Delegates have investigated an "incident" that reportedly involved a comment made by Delegate Larry Faircloth, R-Berkeley, and a woman.
The House provided few details about the situation, and Faircloth said he had no knowledge of any investigation.
"The only thing I can figure is maybe I made a comment out loud somewhere and somebody took it the wrong way," Faircloth said Thursday in a phone interview.
"I've stuffed my foot in the my mouth before and had to apologize for it. I couldn't see it being different than anything like that."
In late August the Daily Mail asked House Communications Director Stacey Ruckle if any allegations of sexual harassment involving Faircloth had been reported. Ruckle responded with an emailed statement made by Joe Altizer, an attorney for the speaker's office.
"Speaker (Tim) Miley was not aware of any matter involving Delegate Faircloth prior to your phone call. After making inquiries, it is our understanding that an incident was reported to the prior administration, that it was investigated and was resolved to all parties' satisfaction," Altizer said in the statement.
Miley became speaker in June after then-Speaker Rick Thompson stepped down to become the cabinet secretary for the state Department of Veterans Assistance. A spokeswoman for the department said Thursday afternoon she would speak with Thompson and potentially respond. She did not.
After repeated requests for more information, Ruckle said Thursday afternoon there would be "no further comment on the matter at this time."
House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Thursday he had spoken with someone in the speaker's office about something someone had told him concerning Faircloth.
"I heard, indirectly, from a person whom I believe was not part of the conversation, that there was a concern over a comment that was made," Armstead said in a statement. "I was not aware of the details of the matter, but I felt it was important that the issue be looked into and the woman's concerns be addressed.
"I discussed it with a representative of the speaker's office who was responsible for personnel matters. The matter was looked into and it is my understanding that all the parties were satisfied with the outcome," Armstead said.
No one provided any details about the specific nature of any comments allegedly made by Faircloth.
Faircloth, the son of a longtime delegate with the same name, was first elected in 2012. When asked if he knew about any allegations of sexual harassment made against him, Faircloth said he was "bewildered."
"I'm not a party person, I wasn't out drinking it up at all the functions. I don't drink," Faircloth said in a phone interview.
"I was the guy that was in my office before 7 a.m. every day and probably wasn't out of the Capitol building before 6 p.m. everyday."
He said he had no knowledge of any investigation by the speaker's office. Faircloth said he could not remember any specific situation during the session where he might have said something that made someone feel uncomfortable.
After a Daily Mail reporter read him Altizer's statement, Faircloth said he might have said a comment somewhere that someone didn't like.
"Well shoot, I probably did make a statement and apologize to everybody there for it," Faircloth said. "Most people do want an apology if you say something out of character."
He repeatedly emphasized that any allegations would not have involved anything other than a comment.
There is no House rule that addresses proper procedure in the event there are allegations made against a delegate. There is a legislative Commission on Special Investigations that can "investigate or examine any matter involving . . .malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office by any employee or officer of the state," according to the legislative website.
The commission consists of both delegates and state senators, as well as staff members. Investigations conducted by the commission and associated materials are exempt from public disclosure under the law, according to the commission's 2012 annual report.
In an email, Ruckle said Miley and his staff are examining current House policies and procedures to determine if there is a need for updates or supplements. She did not specify if that meant any particular policy or all policies.