Larry Wallace, a trusted, longtime aide of US Senator and 2020 hopeful Kamala Harris, resigned on Wednesday. This follows the revelation that the State of California had paid $400,000 in 2017 to settle a sexual harassment claim made against him.
Larry Wallace alleged to have demeaned staffer
The abrupt departure of Larry Wallace from Kamala Harris‘ staff followed an enquiry by the Sacramento Bee into the settlement of a December 2016 lawsuit against the California Department of Justice.
Wallace’s former personal assistant, Danielle Hartley, alleged that the former Oakland police detective subjected her to daily humiliating treatment from 2011, when he was director of the Division of Law Enforcement.
According to the lawsuit, Wallace placed his printer under his desk and would insist that Hartley regularly crawl underneath it (often while wearing a skirt or dress) to replace paper and ink. This instruction was sometimes given even when Wallace was seated at the desk. Hartley also had to perform the task in front of other male executives. When Hartley asked Wallace to move the printer to another location, he refused.
Hartley was also asked to wash Wallace’s car, book flights for his children, and run personal errands.
Hartley informed her supervisor, Shannon Patterson, of her treatment, but according to her lawsuit Patterson was not supportive. Two days before Christmas 2016 Hartley was involuntarily transferred to another division within the California Department of Justice.
Kamala Harris spokesperson: “We were unaware”
Hartley’s lawsuit was filed during Kamala Harris’ transition from her role as California Attorney General to US Senator. Wallace followed Harris to Washington, where he resumed his role as a trusted aide. According to the Senator’s spokesperson Lily Adams, Harris was did not know of the allegations.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” she said. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it.”
The lawsuit was settled by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in May 2017. Although Hartley was paid $400,000 in public funds, Wallace made no admission of guilt.
Implications for 2020
The revelation creates a potential headache for the officially-unofficial Kamala Harris 2020 campaign. The Senator is a leading advocate for reforms to increase transparency in sexual misconduct cases and to make it harder for perpetrators to escape public notice through the use of NDAs and payoffs by their employers.
In June 2018 Harris cosponsored a bill with Alaska Republican Murkowski to “reduce the barriers that prevent victims from speaking out and seeking justice, put companies on notice that they can no longer financially protect harassers in secret, and arm individuals with the resources they need to address systemic workplace harassment.”
The fact that when this bill was written Harris herself was employing a key aide accused of demeaning a female subordinate (who himself was “financially protected” by her former department) is decidedly awkward.
Harris insists that she was unaware of the issue, however. In an interview on Friday she said, “I’m frustrated that I wasn’t briefed. That’s what makes me upset about this. There’s no question I should have been informed about this. There’s no question. And there were ample opportunities when I could have been informed.”