Democrats said Wednesday that Gov. Eric Holcomb should call for an investigation into allegations that House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, tried to intimidate a woman who says she had a consensual, sexual encounter with the lawmaker in 1992 when she was an intern at the General Assembly.
"If the allegations of intimidation are true, they are deeply troubling," said Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody. "What’s clear is there are more questions than answers here."
The Indianapolis Star published a story Wednesday afternoon that said Bosma paid $40,000 to hire attorney Linda Pence with SmithAmundsen, at least in part to investigate and find negative information about the Kandy Green, the former intern for the House Democratic Caucus.
Green told the newspaper that Pence has questioned some of her family, friends, a former boyfriend and ex-husband in an effort to gather unflattering information about her. She said the experience left them shaken, and it made her willing to go public with the decades-old allegation.
Green told the Star she performed oral sex on Bosma in a hotel parking lot during her 1992 internship for Indiana House Democrats. She was 20 and he was 34 at the time.
In a statement to the newspaper, Bosma denied all of the allegations.
Bosma oversaw the internal investigation over groping allegations against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill earlier this year, and is crafting the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy. Holcomb called for Hill to resign and asked the state's inspector general to investigate.
“In the past, Governor Holcomb has rightfully supported a ‘thorough’ investigation into similar matters," Zody said in his statement. "The governor must step up and lead by calling for an exhaustive, impartial investigation into this serious allegation of intimidation.”
Holcomb's office has not commented on the allegations or the Democrats' call for an investigation.
Democratic state Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, had previously requested that Bosma assign the committee the task of investigating the allegations made against Hill.
DeLaney said he is now drafting legislation to deal with the “confused mess” that has come from the allegations against Hill and now Bosma. He described the situation as “a very difficult moment for the Legislature” and said it is vital to protect interns who work for a low wage in important roles.
“It’s about making sure the public feels protected and that someone wants their daughter or son to be an intern for the state,” DeLaney said. “I would hate to think that any member of the Legislature laid a hand on one of our interns, and don’t think consent makes a big difference. The power and age dynamic is too skewed.”
When asked whether she had a reaction to the newspaper report, Judiciary Committee Vice Chairwoman Wendy McNamara, a Republican representative, said, “I do not,” and hung up the phone.
DeLaney said he was particularly concerned about the allegations that Bosma’s lawyer intimidated the former intern.
“If that’s true, that’s very disturbing,” DeLaney said. “We just have got to say that we can’t beat up on people who appear to be victims. The fundamental point is, abusing your power over a young person is a very frankly immoral and destructive action.”
DeLaney also said Bosma is not the appropriate person to take on the mantle of establishing sexual harassment rules in the Legislature.
Democrat Poonam Gill, who is running against Bosma in House District 88, released a statement calling the allegations against Bosma "troubling."
"If true, it is disheartening and wholly unacceptable that he would choose to use his position of power, authority, and resources to treat her in such an undignified manner," Gill said. "Not only would such behavior be personally devastating to the woman at the center of this situation, it would have a significant chilling effect on other young women with similar experiences. We deserve better from our leaders and for Indiana."
The story spread like wildfire through the state Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, said around 3:15 p.m. he had just gotten a text to read the IndyStar article and was scrolling through it when an IBJ reporter called.
“I hesitate to comment at all until I know more of the facts,” Leonard said. “I had just gotten to the part about $40,000 paid out of his campaign funds. I think Brian is probably smart enough to do things legally.”
Leonard, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, said he wanted to “get all the facts on the table” before coming to a conclusion.
“I hesitate to say someone’s not telling the truth,” Leonard said. “There are people out there that would take advantage of the climate.”
But DeLaney said the IndyStar story makes it clear that the woman wasn’t seeking exposure. Rather, she decided to go on the record after receiving the inquiries.
“It’s not like she stood on a street corner screaming, and it sounds like she had some concerns about her name being used,” DeLaney said.
The story about Bosma and the intern has been circulating for years, DeLaney acknowledged.
One Facebook user, a policy wonk working on education issues, called it the “worst-kept ‘secret’ at the Statehouse."
“Amazed it took so long to surface,” another replied.
Eric Bradner, a former Statehouse reporter who now works for CNN, said on Twitter, “This alleged encounter has been the subject of Indiana Statehouse gossip for as long as I can remember. What’s remarkable here is that it was the aggressive tactics of Bosma’s attorneys over the last few months that led Kandy Green to decide to go on the record.”
Other reactions on social media criticized Bosma for his actions.
Kirsten Gibson, a graduate student at Purdue University, tweeted that she believes Green. “Brian Bosma should not be writing a sexual harassment policy,” Gibson tweeted. “Curtis Hill should be removed from office. Let's clean house in the Indiana Legislature!”
Rob Nelson, an Indiana software engineer, tweeted that “I don't know if there's issue with the 26-year-old encounter—but THIS YEAR he has hired someone to dig up dirt on a woman and threaten extortion if she talks.”
“Brian Bosma isn't fit to sit in our Statehouse, no matter what party his lawyer belongs to,” Nelson said.
Jennifer Drobac, a law professor from Indiana University who was quoted in the initial Star story, tweeted: “Surely Indiana deserves better.”