Sen. Kamala Harris said Thursday that she did not know about the allegations of harassment made against one of her longtime staff members, who resigned Wednesday after The Sacramento Bee inquired about a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement resulting from his time working for Harris at the California Department of Justice.
“I did not,” she said on the steps outside the U.S. Capitol. “Nope.”
Larry Wallace, who was the director of the Division of Law Enforcement under then-Attorney General Harris, was accused by his former executive assistant Danielle Hartley in December 2016 of “gender harassment” and other demeaning behavior, including frequently asking her to crawl under his desk to change the paper in his printer.
“It’s something that I take very seriously, and I think we all should,” Harris said. She did not answer whether she believes Hartley but said she has “not talked to her directly.”
The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 30, 2016, when Harris was still attorney general but preparing to be sworn in as California’s newly elected Democratic senator. It was settled less than five months later, in May 2017, by Xavier Becerra, who was appointed to replace her as attorney general.
Wallace worked with Harris for 14 years, including the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. He came to the Department of Justice after she was elected attorney general in 2010 and became a senior advisor in her Sacramento office after she ascended to the U.S. Senate two years ago.
“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 wrote in an email Wednesday.
Harris, who has said she will decide over the holidays whether to run for president in 2020, has been a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement against workplace sexual harassment. Last year, she was among a group of female senators that were the first to call for the resignation of Sen. Al Franken after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct, and she introduced a bill in June to ban forced nondisclosure agreements in harassment settlements.