The Republican Party is allowing the head of its college recruitment arm, accused of sexually harassing female colleagues and misusing party funds, to keep his job with an apology.
The Republican National Committee said Wednesday it found no evidence that the actions of Scott Stewart, who holds the $50,000-a-year post of chairman of the college Republicans organization, met the legal definition of sexual harassment. However, the investigation by the party and an outside law firm concluded Stewart's conduct was "unprofessional and inappropriate for a work setting."
The RNC gave Stewart a warning and ordered him to apologize in writing to the three women whose complaints led to the inquiry.
"We are firmly committed to ensuring that any organization with which we work operates in accordance with the same principles that govern the RNC," spokesman Mark Miner said.
The RNC provides the College Republican National Committee, which has 1,000 campus chapters and 100,000 members who recruit, register and train students for GOP causes, with office space and a majority of its $200,000-a-year budget.
Stewart, who previously denied what he called "frivolous" allegations, said in a statement he was relieved the investigation was over. He did not return calls requesting further comment.
Others said keeping Stewart in charge of the GOP's main youth outreach effort sends a bad message.
Former CRNC executive director John Yob said it is troubling to have someone who has acknowledged inappropriate behavior with the apology in such a position. "We need a change," said Yob, who is challenging Stewart's bid for a second two-year term in elections in July.
Jennifer Gorski, Kathleen Kirst and Youmna Salameh alleged in affidavits that Stewart made frequent unwanted sexual advances and regularly spoke obscenely to and about female employees. They also alleged Stewart authorized the use of several thousand dollars in GOP funds to pay for his and others' personal expenses, such as cellular telephone bills, plane tickets and campaign mailings.
Gorski was an office manager who was fired by Stewart last year. Kirst was an intern in 1999. Salameh worked at another RNC-affiliated organization next door to the college Republicans.
Their accusations did not result in Stewart's ouster at a college Republicans meeting in New Orleans in mid-November, so they took their sworn statements to the Republican National Committee in January.
In mid-February, the RNC promised prompt action but then postponed the case by referring its six-week inquiry to the law firm.
Jason Zanetti, the CRNC's Northeastern caucus chairman who has been speaking for the women, said they were unable to comment on the RNC's decision. The women earlier had suggested they might sue if the RNC did not remove Stewart.