A 10-page report from Rebecca Dean, a Seattle-based lawyer hired by the City of Bremerton to investigate allegations of misconduct made against Bremerton City Council member Richard Huddy, sheds light on how accusations of “overly familiar” and inappropriate contact came to be leveled against the lawmaker related to interactions with two young women and one 17-year-old girl.
According to the report obtained by the Kitsap News Group Dec. 20, Dean — an attorney with experience investigating workplace malfeasance — interviewed 10 witnesses, including Huddy, and reviewed Facebook conversations and other communications in conducting her report, which was presented to the City Council recently.
Dean concludes that Huddy’s behavior at three public events in October and in online conversations with the teenagers was “overly familiar and inappropriate in the context of [their] ages and their minimal acquaintance with Huddy.”
It is “important to note,” she adds, that Huddy “did not tell overt sexual jokes, make overt sexual innuendos,” make advances or seek to meet with the women and girl “in a private setting.”
The teenagers told Dean that Huddy’s behavior, which included hugs, comments on their appearance, and Facebook messages sent after 10 p.m., made them feel “put off” and “awkward,” and that some of his comments seemed “very personal.”
One of the teenagers described why she responded to Huddy’s Facebook messages in an appendix to the report. She said she “wasn’t gonna answer him cuz it was weird” but “didn’t want to be rude.”
The report alleges misconduct occurred at three events in October and in subsequent online conversations.
At a community luncheon at Olympic College, one of the women said Huddy made a comment about her name that made her feel uncomfortable, according to the report. He allegedly said her name sounded Russian and that she should “be a masseuse,” the report read.
The young woman responded that she was happy with her career path, she told Dean, to which Huddy allegedly responded: “I just want to give you the option.”
The young woman said she was “put off by Huddy’s comment, excused herself, and walked away,” according to the report.
In another instance at the same event, one of the teenagers said Huddy complimented her and her friends on their dresses in a way that seemed “very personal.”
Huddy told Dean he often compliments people on their appearance at formal events, both women and men.
He said he may have made a comment about the young woman’s Russian-sounding name but strongly denied having said anything about her pursuing a career as a masseuse.
“Oh, absolutely not,” he said.
At another event, the three young women said Huddy allegedly hugged them or otherwise made physical contact with them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.
One of the young women said Huddy hugged her and “either kissed her or brushed her cheek,” according to the report. She told Dean that following the contact, she wiped her cheek and told Huddy “that was not necessary,” and walked away.
Another said Huddy hugged her in a way that “seemed to go on for too long,” according to the report. The third young women also said a hug went on for too long, adding that it “made her skin crawl.”
In an interview with Dean, Huddy said he did not recall if he hugged any of the young women at the event, but said he may have because he “does hug and kiss people on the cheek,” the report said.
At a different event, one woman was selling raffle tickets for a trip. The young woman told Dean that Huddy agreed to buy a ticket, but said he did not think his wife would go and invited the teenager to go with him.
The teenager told Dean that Huddy “laughed, and then stared at her as if waiting for an answer,” the report says.
The young woman “thought it was weird but did not think much of it at the time,” Dean wrote.
Three days later, after Huddy did not win the raffle, he wrote a Facebook message to the young woman at 10:40 p.m., saying “You are so lucky that my ticket wasn’t drawn!”
The next day Huddy sent the young woman a photograph of the two of them with the caption, “Thanks for this wonderful photo!”
Subsequently, each of the young women unfriended Huddy, the report says.
Huddy’s account of the incident differs.
He said at first, he said he did not want to buy a raffle ticket, saying his wife does not like to travel. He said at that point, the teenager said, “Well, if you win, I’ll go with you,” in an attempt to make the sale.
He said that his Facebook message saying she was “lucky” his ticket wasn’t drawn was meant to be self-deprecating.
In a second interview with the teenager, Dean said she “affirmed that it was Huddy who stated that if he won a ticket, she (or one of them) would have to go with them.”
Dean said she found reports by the young women of the events at the dinner “credible,” and said Huddy’s behavior was problematic.
“Although everyone involved understood that it was unlikely that he was serious,” she wrote, “the statement is, in my assessment, mildly flirtatious.”
After reviewing the report, the Bremerton City Council voted on Wednesday to formally censure Huddy. The resolution to officially reprimand the council member passed with a 6-1 vote, with Huddy dissenting.
Council member Leslie Daugs introduced the resolution.
“We as electeds are supposed to be setting an example,” she said in an interview. “As adults, you would think we all know proper boundaries, proper ways of working with our youth.”
Emily Randall, a state senator-elect representing the 26th Legislative District, weighed in on the matter via a statement on Facebook.
“Thankful that this behavior was censured by Bremerton City Councilmembers,” Randall wrote. “But appalled/disgusted that so many people (mostly men) in elected office and positions of power don’t know (or don’t care) where the boundary of acceptable behavior is.”
In his Dec. 3 interview with Dean, Huddy said he was “at a loss” to understand the allegations against him. He said he viewed the teenagers like “granddaughters” and as “very community-minded people” that he enjoyed seeing at events.
“Up until this time, I had thought they enjoyed seeing me also,” he said.
He added that he apologized if “for whatever reason [they] have been made to feel uncomfortable” by anything he had said or done.
”I regret that,” he said.