A summary of the investigation into Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach’s conduct was made public, five months after Democratic lawmakers had commissioned the law firm Eckert Seamans to conduct a review of nine allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, both in and outside of the workplace.
The report concluded that seven of the allegations did not definitively constitute actionable sexual assault or harassment. But it did state that Leach’s conduct could contribute to claims of a hostile work environment. And it concluded that in the case of one allegation, Leach had “engaged in inappropriate conduct towards colleagues in the Senate” that “may rise to the level of workplace harassment if unabated.”
In a statement, Leach, who has been in the state legislature since 2003, described the Eckert Seamans report as having “absolved me of false charges made against me. Specifically, the report says there was no evidence that I ever engaged in any behavior that could be called sexual harassment, predatory, discriminatory or illegal. Further they concluded that I have never violated any Senate policy.”
Pennsylvania Democratic Party leaders saw it differently, and on June 6, they called on Leach to resign.
“Sen. Leach’s course of conduct created an unprofessional and sexualized environment,” state Sen. Jay Costa wrote in a statement. “That should not be tolerated in any workplace; we will not tolerate it here. For this reason, I believe Sen. Leach should resign from the Senate.”
Costa, a Democrat and the Senate minority leader from the Pittsburgh area, was joined by Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills and Vice Chairman Sharif Street, who released a joint statement.
“Pennsylvanians deserve legislators who can support women in both policy and in practice. Abusive behavior from anyone — Democrat or Republican — is unacceptable and has no place in Harrisburg,” the statement read. “As a result of the facts compiled by the Senate Democratic Caucus investigation into the allegations against Sen. Daylin Leach, we are standing with Gov. Tom Wolf, Democratic Leader Jay Costa and other Democrats in their calls for Sen. Leach’s resignation.”
Wolf had previously called for Leach to resign in December 2017.
Leach released a second statement attacking Costa, writing that it was “troubling that Sen. Costa would say things he knows to be false. He said to my face directly that the report exonerates me.” Costa, he wrote, “wanted me to participate in a cover-up. He threatened me to keep silent about a taxpayer-funded report and tell the press a lie.” Costa said that the notion that he had encouraged Leach to engage in a cover-up was “preposterous.”
The report was commissioned on Jan. 24, more than a year after the initial publication of a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer in December 2017.
The Inquirer report detailed allegations from eight women and three men that Leach had “for years engaged in questionable behavior with young female staffers and volunteers, from highly sexualized jokes and comments to touching they deemed inappropriate.”
One allegation said that Leach’s staffers did their best to limit his time around interns and volunteers because of that behavior, and that they worried about hiring attractive young women.
The Eckert Seamans report, based on interviews with 19 witnesses and “thousands of pages of documents,” has been seen by some Senate Democrats — though not by Leach — and has not yet been released in full.
Leach was provided with a 26-page PowerPoint culled from the report itself, which is available for public viewing. It addresses nine separate allegations, some of which were published in the original Inquirer report.
Eight of the nine allegations regard incidents that allegedly took place during his time as a state senator.
The ninth and perhaps most serious claim refers to an alleged 1991 incident wherein Leach, then a private citizen, is accused of having sexually assaulted a woman named Cara Taylor. Taylor, who was 17 at the time, told investigators that Leach had coerced her into performing oral sex. They knew each other because Leach was at the time defending Taylor’s mother on charges of attempted murder.
In regards to that allegation, Leach has called the incident “fictional,” and filed a defamation lawsuit against Taylor and activists supporting her. The report noted “certain factual inconsistencies” in Taylor’s account of the events, but also noted that she “steadfastly believed her account of what transpired — her testimony on this point was detailed and passionate.”
Leach, for his part, has said that he will not drop out of the 2020 reelection bid for his 17th District Senate seat, even after the Democratic committees in Delaware and Montgomery counties called for him to step down.
Sara Atkins, who is challenging Leach for his seat, released a statement saying that she was “very troubled to see that the investigation called for by Minority Leader Jay Costa today did not remove Sen. Daylin Leach from the state Senate and instead Sen. Costa is leaving it to Leach to resign on his own.”
I am very troubled to see that the investigation called for by @Senatorcosta, today, did not remove Leach from the State Senate and instead Senator Costa is leaving it to Leach to resign on his own. The report shows a pattern of behavior that is by definition, sexual harassment.
— Sara Atkins for PA State Senate, District 17 (@SaraAtkinsforPa) June 7, 2019
“Due process is a wonderful thing,” Leach tweeted.
Here are my comments on the results of the Senate Investigation into me. They found no evidence that I ever engaged in any conduct that was discriminatory, harassing, predatory or illegal. Due process is a wonderful thing. Thank you so much for sticking with me. pic.twitter.com/rawg9BsVSg
— Daylin Leach (@daylinleach) June 6, 2019