Raleigh, N.C. — A former staffer of the North Carolina Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Thursday against the party and its chairman, David Parker, over a sexual harassment claim the staffer made last fall.
Adriadn Ortega says Parker defamed him during an April news conference when he said Ortega made up allegations of sexual harassment against the party's former director, Jay Parmley. Ortega is also alleging that Parker violated a confidential settlement agreement by discussing the claims publicly.
The lawsuit contends that Parker defamed Ortega by indirectly calling him a liar and extortionist.
Last year, after he was terminated, Ortega filed a complaint with the state Democratic Party alleging that Parmley had sexually harassed him on several occasions.
In a Dec. 8, 2011, letter addressed to Parmley, Ortega described some of those encounters: "(Parmley) often solicited my opinion about his clothes. He would point both hands to his crotch area and ask me how his crotch looked in those pants that day."
Ortega also alleged that Parmley "would frequently pretend to punch my crotch and make a popping noise with his mouth."
On other occasions, Ortega alleged, Parmley "showed me a picture of his penis" and gave unwanted shoulder rubs despite Ortega's objections.
Ortega said he had brought these concerns to the attention of the state Democratic Party in October, more than a month before he was fired.
Several months later, Parker, on behalf of the party, entered into a confidential separation agreement with Ortega. The conditions of that agreement, the lawsuit states, included that the state Democratic Party would keep the terms of the sexual harassment settlement confidential and refrain from making any disparaging remarks about Ortega.
A third party sent Ortega's complaint against Parmley to WRAL News in April. A short time after the accusations were reported, Parmley resigned.
On April 19, Parker addressed the scandal during a news conference in which he dismissed all claims of harassment against Parmley. He said discussions between Parmley and Ortega about clothing were "just normal discourse" and that "there was nothing sexual about" Parmley's pretend punches to Ortega's crotch, the lawsuit states.
Parker accused Ortega of lying in his sworn statement to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the harassment.
"It is a crime, if I understand the law, if he lies in that statement," Parker said.
He also said Ortega's letter to Parmley "smacked of extortion."
The lawsuit contends that those remarks were an attack on "Ortega's reputation, honesty and integrity" and that they were an attempt to redirect scrutiny from Parker and the party.
Ortega is seeking monetary compensation and an apology.
Shortly after Parmley's resignation in April, state leaders began calling for Parker to resign as well.
He initially refused, then resigned during a raucous meeting of party leaders in May. Six hours later, the party voted him back in as chairman.
The state Democratic Party has not commented on the lawsuit.