Ex-staffer sues NC Democratic Party over sexual harassment scandal

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The sexual harassment scandal that caused havoc in the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) weeks ago resurfaced on Thursday when the former staffer who made the original allegation sued the party.

Adriadn Ortega, who was fired from the NCDP in November 2011, alleged that now former NCDP Executive Director Jay Parmley sexually harassed him. Ortega charged that his firing was retaliation for voicing complaints about Parmley’s alleged sexual harassment of him. The NCDP made a financial settlement with Ortega, and everybody signed non-disclosure agreements in an effort to keep the issue out of the press.

Then, in early April, The Daily Caller obtained emails between different party officials detailing what happened and the widespread fear throughout the NCDP that, if the issue broke, the party would be “doomed” ahead of the Democratic National Convention later this summer. The emails also revealed fears that the scandal would affect national politics for Democrats. Within days of TheDC first breaking the story, Parmley resigned. Shortly after that, amid pressure from his state’s Democratic leaders, including outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue (who first told a local news reporter to “get over it” when she was asked about the sexual harassment scandal), NCDP chairman David Parker agreed to step down at an upcoming state party meeting.

In a bizarre turn of events, Parker officially submitted his resignation — but the NCDP executive committee refused to accept it, and Parker kept his job. Local news outlet WRAL reported that Parker had lobbied executive committee members to vote to reject his resignation.

According to the local ABC news affiliate in Raleigh-Durham, Ortega accuses Parker and the NCDP of defamation and breach of contract for talking openly about the details of the scandal.

“When somebody as powerful as the chairman of the state Democratic Party takes to the airwaves and says that you have engaged in extortion, that you are a liar, and that you can’t be trusted,” Ortega’s attorney Kieran Shanahan said.

“What would that be worth to you and your reputation?” he asked. “So we are going to leave it to a jury to decide. But I certainly think this conduct by Mr. Parker and the Democratic Party is egregious, and I think my client is entitled to damages.”

The lawsuit hits the news less than two months before the Democratic National Convention is set to roll into Charlotte, N.C., and just days before one of the NCDP’s big events: the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

The DNC is sending Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, the attorney general of Delaware, to be the keynote speaker at the battleground state’s Saturday dinner. In a blog post, North Carolina Democratic strategist Gary Pearce said he views the decision to send Beau Biden instead of some other higher-ranking, more influential person as a sign that the NCDP is “in the doghouse.”

“Where does the North Carolina Democratic Party rate with the White House?” Pearce wrote. “Here’s a clue: The Jefferson-Jackson dinner speaker isn’t the president, the first lady, the vice president or Mrs. Biden. It’s not David Axelrod or another big-name campaign official.”

“It’s the Bidens’ son, Beau,” Pearce continued. “Unless party HQ heard wrong, and the White House is actually sending the Obamas’ dog, Bo.”

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Matthew Boyle