Fund Worker Accuses Legislator of Sexual Harassment

Fund Worker Accuses Legislator of Sexual Harassment

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- An employee of a fund-raising agency claims she was sexually harassed when a legislator talked to her about alleged therapy practices at the Utah Boys Ranch.

Laura Thalin of Hope for the Children in Orem said Rep. Mike Thompson approached her at a grocery store July 2 and made detailed references to what he called "masturbation therapy," which she found offensive.

Thompson denies harassing Thalin.

"I thought she and I were friends," he said. "I certainly never sexually harassed her. I don't know what to say."

Thompson said Thalin approached him at the grocery store to get him to compromise on child-protection legislation, and the conversation dealt with the "safety and well-being of children and the various forms of therapy we are in disagreement over." He said he has been told about "controversial and rare" therapy practices purportedly being practiced in Utah.

"Those issues were brought up in our conversation to state my reasons why I did not feel a compromise was possible," he stated.

Thompson, who was named Child Advocate of the Year by the Utah County Child Abuse Council, said Thalin has a grudge against him because he sponsored bills to outlaw holding therapy, a controversial technique allegedly practiced at the Cascade Center in Orem, which has ties to Hope for the Children.

Sen. D. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, executive director of the Utah Boys Ranch, said masturbation therapy has never been promoted at the ranch.

Buttars said he called Thompson recently after hearing that Thompson had linked the Boys Ranch to sexual therapy, but he said Thompson denied having spoken of it.

Thalin complained to her boss, Mark Ellis, who then sent complaint letters to the Legislature seeking an ethics investigation. The letters went to House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, and Carole Peterson, chief House clerk.

Peterson said the complaint has been referred to the appropriate committee for review, but no action has been taken yet. She referred further questions to Stephens, who was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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