Top Democratic Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen’s gubernatorial administration was investigated for concealing details of sexual harassment allegations against high ranking political appointees
Bredesen, who announced his Senate campaign Thursday, came under scrutiny in 2005 after state investigators shredded documents related to sexual harassment allegations brought against high-level administration officials. Bredesen justified the shredding on the basis that it was done to protect the identity of the victims.
The Tennessean, a Nashville-based daily, began investigating the office in 2005 after Bredesen’s senior adviser for legislation and policy, Mack Cooper, was suspended due to a workplace harassment claim. Reporters were unable to unearth any details about the claim because state investigators shredded all of their notes.
“There’s nothing to be covered up here,” Bredesen told the Associated Press. “I don’t have any way of proving that to you.”
Two months after Cooper’s suspension, another Bredesen appointee, Quentin White, resigned from his post as commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Corrections amid sexual harassment allegations and questions about his handling of a sexual harassment case against his assistant.
Bredesen confirmed that White had in fact been accused one year before his suspension but insisted investigators were unable to corroborate the allegation. He was unable to prove the probe yielded no corroborating evidence because the top investigator shredded her notes and produced no written report detailing the investigation.
Both the AP and The Tennessean conducted investigations and determined that Bredesen’s administration treated sexual harassment claims against political appointees differently than those against low level state employees.
“In a review last year of 602 workplace harassment case files across all levels of state government, the AP reported that documents were shredded only in high-profile cases,” the AP found.
Following the investigations Bredesen ordered his administration to stop shredding investigative documents and instructed investigators to address all claims the same regardless of the alleged perpetrator’s title.
Bredesen attributed the disparate approaches in addressing workplace harassment claims not to the involvement of the Governor’s office but instead to the difference between civil and executive employees.
“Where executive service employees are involved, they are hired and fired at-will so the need for the documentation is not there,” he said in July 2005.
He further conceded that sexual harassment is an issue within state government but disputed that the problem was particularly prevalent within his office.
“Anytime you mix men and women together in a work environment there’s going to be issues,” he said.
Bredesen’s campaign did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication.
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