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NC Democratic Party embroiled in sex harassment scandal

Posted April 13, 2012 5:12 p.m. EDT
Updated April 13, 2012 6:23 p.m. EDT

N.C. Democratic Party headquarters

— Leaders of the North Carolina Democratic Party declined to answer questions Friday about reports that a junior staffer quit working for the party last fall after being sexually harassed by a senior party official.

Several party officials said they were told the party settled with the young man and that he signed a non-disclosure agreement. No financial settlement appears on the party's finance reports.

The senior official allegedly behind the harassment is still working at the party's Raleigh headquarters.

Sallie Leslie, a former administrator, quit the state party six weeks ago. She told WRAL News on Friday that the decision came after much thought.

"I, quite frankly, could not be a part of any organization that protected a predator," Leslie said.

Late Friday, state party Chairman David Parker issued a statement saying that people who have left the party in recent months did so for professional reasons.

"Over the last several months, several employees left their employment with the NCDP for business or professional reasons unrelated to their job performance, by mutual agreement of the parties involved," Parker said. "These are personnel matters about which we cannot and will not comment further."

The staffer who left last fall said he cannot talk about the issue.

Democratic consultants said party leaders have to step up and address the issue directly.

"We don't know what the truth is. We know what the rumors and conjecture are. So, it's incumbent on the party chair at this time to assemble a full report and release the findings of fact, get the truth out there, get in front of the story," consultant Brad Crone said. "Transparency is the best policy in this situation. If there's a cover-up, it will doom you."

"One would hope that the party would come clean about what they've done, explain their decision-making and move on because, behind the scenes, there's no question this is roiling Democratic party activists," consultant Joe Sinsheimer said.

In an email chain leaked to WRAL News, a local party official said he was worried that the scandal, which alleges harassment of a male staffer by a male superior, could harm the party's fight against the proposed constitutional amendment on the May 8 ballot defining marriage in North Carolina as being between one man and one woman.