Washington Mayor Sorry for Touching Two Co-Workers, Said It Wasn't Sexual

Mayor Rick Hansen was formally admonished at a city council meeting.

ByABC News
July 19, 2012, 1:14 PM

July 19, 2012— -- The mayor of Puyallup, Wash., publicly apologized after two women accused him of inappropriately touching them in the workplace. But he insisted the interactions were not sexual.

"I am truly sorry and embarrassed," said Mayor Rick Hansen at a city council meeting on Tuesday.

Following an internal investigation, the city issued a report that detailed the complaints of one woman who said the mayor had touched her in a "playful" and "flirtatious" way that she believed crossed the line. A second woman, former council member Nicole Martineau, came forward at the meeting to allege the mayor had also touched her in an inappropriate manner by putting his hands on her shoulders and shaking her back and forth. Martineau's complaint was not part of the city's investigation.

The first incident of unwanted touching occurred last April as the woman, who was not identified and currently works for the city of Puyallup, struggled with a copy machine, according to the city's report obtained by ABCNews.com.

"[She] had her back to the copier and Mayor Hansen touched her shoulder and leaned in toward her. He allegedly said, "What would you say if I told you I was a little bit afraid of you?" according to the report.

Five days later, the mayor allegedly "put his flat, open hand on [her] hip toward the front, close to her abdomen," the report said.

Hansen didn't deny the two "touching" interactions but said they were not meant to be sexual. The first one, at the copy machine, was "just small talk," the mayor told ABC News' Seattle affiliate.

"That really was about her exercising, that she's a strong person," he said.

In the second instance when his hand touched the woman's hip, Hansen told the affiliate he was only indicating that the purple in the woman's shirt matched the color of the cancer-awareness ribbons at city hall.

Council members released a formal admonishment of Hansen on Tuesday, calling the mayor's behavior "inappropriate."

The mayor said he had been through sensitivity training since the April complaint and understood that he had crossed the line.

"If there is anything I did that made anyone feel uncomfortable, I would hope they would come and tell me," he told the station, adding that from now on, he'd stick to handshakes.