A top aide to California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris resigned Wednesday after a report emerged that California paid out a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement to end a lawsuit over actions taken by the aide during Harris’ time as California’s attorney general.
Originally the director of the Division of Law Enforcement, Larry Wallace left the post to work as a senior adviser to Harris after she was elected to the Senate in 2016.
In December 2016, Danielle Hartley, Wallace’s former executive assistant accused him of “gender harassment” and other demeaning behavior, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The state of California settled the case in May 2017.
Harris has been a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, but news of the settlement has left some people with questions.
“Clearly a $400,000 settlement tells us that where there’s smoke there’s probably fire,” said Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, according to KPIX. “That this person was so high up in the AG’s office is really problematic and troubling.”
Harris’s office issued a terse statement about the report.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously. This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams said.
Wallace could not be reached for comment.
Adams told The Washington Post that Harris didn’t know the complaint existed until Wednesday. Neither Wallace nor the state informed Harris’s office that a settlement had been reached, she added.
The lawsuit claimed that Wallace was demeaning in his treatment of Hartley.
“This included Wallace placing his printer underneath his desk on the floor and ordering Hartley to put paper in (his) printer or replace the ink on a daily basis,” the lawsuit stated. “Hartley requested that the printer be moved to another location so she would not have to bend down on her knees under the desk in her dresses and skirts, but Wallace refused.”
Wallace often had Hartley put paper in the printer in front of other male executives from the division, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleged that Hartley asked her supervisor, Shannon Patterson, to help end the demeaning treatment.
“Hartley observed Patterson enter Wallace’s office and met with him behind closed doors,” the lawsuit said, noting that after that she suffered from retaliation at work and was eventually involuntarily transferred.
The lawsuit does not mention whether Hartley believed Harris knew about the situation.
Harris, who achieved notoriety after her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, is among a number of Democrats who are considering running for president in 2020.
Harris has said she will make her decision about a White House bid during the upcoming Christmas season, according to Politico.
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