Salt Lake Democrats suspend Gene Davis after investigation into sexual misconduct allegations

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party’s rebuke comes a month after a former intern accused the longtime lawmaker of sexual misconduct.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, discusses a bill during the Legislative session, Jan. 28, 2022. The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has called for Davis' resignation from the Legislature one month after a former intern and campaign staffer accused him of sexual misconduct.

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party is calling for the “immediate and unconditional resignation” of state Sen. Gene Davis following an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the longtime lawmaker.

A statement released Tuesday afternoon said the party has also suspended him from attending party events and receiving party support for two years. The rebuke comes a month after a former intern and campaign staffer said there were multiple instances in which Davis touched her, making her feel uncomfortable, during the five months she worked with him. She is the second woman to publicly accuse him of misconduct.

According to the statement, the county party initiated an investigation after receiving a complaint against the senator on Aug. 4, one day after Sonia Weglinski outlined the allegations in an Instagram post. The county party’s judicial committee voted unanimously on Sept. 8 to find Davis in violation of its Anti-Harassment Policy.

The party said the committee’s recommendation to suspend Davis and call for his resignation was unanimously approved at an executive committee meeting four days later. Davis, who had two weeks to appeal the decision, did not do so, according to the statement.

Davis did not respond to requests for comment.

This is the first long-term disciplinary action against the senator since the most recent allegation against him. Utah Senate President Stuart Adams announced in August that the Legislature had initiated an independent investigation into the claims, and the Utah Democratic Party temporarily suspended him pending that investigation. The state party also asked that Davis step down.

According to a spokesperson for the Utah Senate, the investigation is “ongoing.”

The senator continues to perform his legislative duties and has attended interim committee meetings at the Utah Capitol since the allegations were made public. This summer, Davis was defeated in the Democratic primaries by Nate Blouin and, if he doesn’t resign, will remain in office until January.

Weglinski, a student at the University of Utah, told The Tribune in August that she waited until after the primary election to come forward to ensure her allegations wouldn’t be branded a political hit.

“I had to experience this without any accountability — prolong my experience — because I knew I wouldn’t be heard,” Weglinski said.

In August, Davis told The Tribune that he was “flabbergasted” by the allegations, but confirmed at least one of the incidents Weglinski described in the Instagram post.

Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chair Eva Lopez said in an Aug. 4 statement provided to The Tribune that Davis was temporarily suspended from all party activities. That statement did not say whether the party was conducting an investigation into the senator. According to party bylaws, all investigations must be initiated by a complaint.

“If a complaint has been submitted, I have full confidence that our Judicial Committee will complete a swift and thorough investigation into any allegations,” the August statement read. “If and when such an investigation is conducted, the Judicial Committee will offer a space to victims that does not compromise their right to privacy and determine necessary remedial action.”

Multiple sources, including Davis and his campaign manager, Richard Jaramillo, told The Tribune that the county party investigated a separate sexual misconduct allegation against the senator earlier this year. Weglinski said she was not aware of that investigation.

Cristóbal Villegas, the Salt Lake County Democratic Party’s parliamentarian, said he could not confirm to The Tribune whether the party conducted that earlier investigation.

Addressing the most recent investigation, Villegas added, “I feel confident saying that we did our due diligence and we went above and beyond” in giving all parties a chance to participate in the investigation.

“We hope to keep this a safe environment in the future,” Lopez said on Tuesday after the party released its statement. “So we’ll be looking at our own internal policies and amending them as well to make sure that we very clearly set boundaries as to; one, keeping this confidential and a just process for everybody involved; but two, to make sure that women in particular feel safe in our party. We want to see interns succeed in our party.”