BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVNS) — A Beckley lawyer on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, said he plans to sue a Fayette County delegate for sexual harassment, on behalf of a client.
Attorney Stephen New said he also plans to file a 30-day notice with the State of West Virginia, warning the state and its insurance carriers of a potential claim against the State Legislature.
New said he will learn during discovery if the Legislature is legally liable for the delegate’s alleged behavior.
According to New, Del. Austin Haynes (R, 32) sent a string of sexually harassing texts to a lobbyist. One of the texts reportedly asked the lobbyist, in crude terms, if she would have sex with a lawmaker to get a bill passed if the bill was important to her. Haynes also allegedly texted the lobbyist that a female delegate wanted to have sex with him in order to get Haynes to vote for one of her bills and that, “it happens all the time,” in the Legislature.
New said the Legislative body should not require citizens to have sex or pay money in order for their voices to be heard.
“If we can’t trust them to discharge their duties in a way that is respectful of all of their constituents, of the people of West Virginia, then we don’t have a government of the people, by the people, for the people,” he said. “Then it’s whatever government can be influenced, either by money or the promise of sexual favors and that’s not what this country and the state were founded on.”
New said the texts allegedly sent by Haynes are disturbing from a civic perspective.
“It’s not the way America or democracy works, where citizenry have to sleep with legislators or be subjected to sexual—unwelcome sexual advances—in order to be heard,” New said. “That is troubling to me, as the father of a young daughter. It’s troubling to me, on many levels.”
New said he hopes to learn during discovery if other delegates had complained to House Leadership about Haynes’ alleged behavior.
Haynes and House Speaker Roger Henshaw’s office had not yet responded to requests for comment on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, and the West Virginia Republican Party declined to issue an immediate comment on Oct. 25, 2022.
Elliott Pritt, Haynes’ opponent released to following statement regarding these allegations:
The allegations against my opponent are concerning. I do not condone any individual using their position as leverage for quid-pro-quo arrangements. I have committed myself to the people of Fayette County, and I intend to continue my campaign of talking with voters every day and earning their trust and support. When elected, I will remain committed to representing all people in the 50th Delegate District of Fayette County and the good people of the state of West Virginia.Elliott Pritt, Candidate House of Delegates District 50 (Fayette)