A longtime aide to Sen. Kamala Harris resigned Wednesday after another news publication asked about a $400,000 sexual harassment and retaliation settlement stemming from his time working for the California Department of Justice.
The Sacramento Bee first reported this story.
Larry Wallace, a top aide to Harris in her Senate office in Sacramento, was the California Democrat’s director of the Law Enforcement Division when she was the state attorney general.
A spokeswoman for Harris said the senator did not know Wallace’s former executive assistant at the California DOJ had filed a lawsuit alleging “gender harassment” and retaliation against her for telling a superior about Wallace’s demeaning behavior.
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“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 in a statement.
Harris, widely seen as a potential challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020 if she can secure the Democratic nomination, has been one of the most outspoken politicians in the #MeToo movement.
She was one of the first senators to call on Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign after accusations of sexual misconduct against him last year.
“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere,” Harris tweeted at the time, urging Franken’s resignation.
The plaintiff, Danielle Hartley, filed suit against the California DOJ in December of 2016, when Harris was still attorney general but was transitioning to the Senate to begin her first term. She took much of her senior staff with her, including Wallace.
Xavier Becerra, the new AG, settled the case for $400,000 in May 2017, less than five months later.
Shortly after being hired in 2011 to be Wallace’s assistant, “Hartley had concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender,” the lawsuit states. Wallace allegedly demanded that she crawl under his desk on a daily basis to add paper to the printer there and change its ink — often in front of other male executives from his division.
Hartley asked Wallace to move the printer so she would not have to crawl under his desk in skirts and shorts, the lawsuit states, but he refused.
The lawsuit also alleges that Wallace stripped Hartley of her professional duties, asking her to book flights for his children and wash his car for him instead — tasks that raised eyebrows among her coworkers, who made snide remarks to her.
When Hartley told her supervisor about the alleged harassment, the supervisor met with Wallace. After that meeting, the lawsuit alleges, Hartley was “set up to fail” by Wallace and eventually “told she should quit her job and seek employment elsewhere.”
The lawsuit details the psychological fallout Hartley experienced from her time working at the California DOJ, from depression to panic attacks.
It is unclear what kind of impact Wallace’s departure could have on Harris’ 2020 ambitions.
Harris has said she will decide over the holidays whether she will run for president in 2020.