“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously."
A longtime top staff member of Sen. Kamala Harris resigned Wednesday after questions were raised about his alleged sexual harassment of his executive assistant.
The aide, Danielle Hartley, made the claims in a 2016 lawsuit against the California Department of Justice when Harris was attorney general. Hartley accused Larry Wallace, who served as the director of the Division of Law Enforcement, of “gender harassment” and other demeaning behavior, including often asking her to crawl under his desk to change the paper in his printer.
Hartley further accused the Department of Justice under Harris, who is now a Democratic senator for her state, of retaliating against her after she reported the harassment to her supervisor, Shannon Patterson. Hartley said she was subsequently “set up to fail,” micro-managed by Patterson, investigated by internal affairs on a “fabricated charge” that was never resolved to her knowledge, and “told she should quit her job and seek employment elsewhere.”
“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 told the Sacramento Bee, which first inquired about the lawsuit.
Neither Wallace nor Patterson responded to requests for comment from the Bee.
Harris, who has said she will decide over the holidays whether to run for president, has taken a leading role in the #MeToo movement against workplace sexual harassment. Last year, she was among the female senators who spearheaded a successful push for the resignation of then-Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota over sexual misconduct allegations, and she introduced a bill in June to ban forced nondisclosure agreements in harassment settlements.
Harris was also one of the most prominent interrogators and critics of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the politicalcircus that was his confirmation process. She said with the White House had politicized the FBI probe into allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, who she called "unfit" for the court.
"This should have been a search for the truth," she said ahead of Kavanaugh's imminent nomination in October. "They should have been allowed to do their full job. But instead the White House did not allow it. This was not a search for the truth. Instead, this was about politics and raw power to push through an unfit nominee."
When the lawsuit was filed against the Department of Justice on Dec. 30, 2016, Harris was still attorney general but had already been elected senator. Her successor, Xavier Becerra, settled the lawsuit less than five months later, in May 2017. By that point, Harris was in the Senate, with Wallace working as her senior adviser.
Cover image: Democratic Sen. Kamala of California listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Sept. 27, 2018.