Ex-elections official denies sex harassment claims
Posted August 20, 2010 5:54 p.m. EDT
Updated August 20, 2010 7:02 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A former manager at the State Board of Elections said Friday that he was forced out because of intra-office allegiances.
Ralph Gable was fired last month as business manager at the elections board amid allegations of sexual harassment. The Goldsboro resident, who is a friend of longtime elections board Executive Director Gary Bartlett, has filed a grievance to get his job back.
"I don't think I created a hostile work environment at all," Gable said.
He admitted he called female co-workers "honey" or "love" and suggested to one that she greet her husband wearing nothing but plastic wrap.
"This was not said in any mean, evil, dispiriting, upsetting way," he said, noting he was quoting a book in making the suggestion.
At one point, Gable said, he installed a miniature camera in the ceiling above his desk. He said the camera doesn't work, and he used it to keep people away from his files.
He also acknowledged that he used a derogatory comment about a woman's weight behind her back. He said others in the office also called her by the name but added that, "In hindsight, you probably shouldn't say it."
Gable contends harassment accusations stemmed from a power struggle in the agency between Bartlett and campaign finance investigator Kim Strach, who compiled and filed complaints against him.
Tensions within the elections board office have grown in recent months as Strach led an investigation into campaign flights by Gov. Beverly Perdue and former gubernatorial candidates.
Republicans have charged that Bartlett and board Chairman Larry Leake, both Democrats, interfered in the probe to protect Perdue. The governor's campaign, meanwhile, said Strach couldn't be objective in the case because her husband was legal counsel for the state Republican Party.
Strach declined to comment Friday, citing state personnel privacy laws.
Gable compared his firing to the false accusations of rape leveled against three Duke University lacrosse team members four years ago.
"They were attacked. I was attacked. That's what I'm comparing," he said.
Co-workers resented that he tried to enforce office policies, like documenting leave, he said.
"Some of them said he's a spy. He's from Goldsboro," he said.
Sources with the Board of Elections told WRAL News that Gable lived in denial about his behavior.
He said the truth in the case will ultimately win out.
"In this country, the truth should set you free," he said.