By Ken Stone
The young chairman of San Diego County’s Democratic Party was paid at least $150,000 as part of a legal settlement in his lawsuit against former state party chair Eric Bauman, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the chair, and two others sued Bauman in January over sexual misconduct and a month ago asked that the case be dismissed, the paper said.
Rodriguez-Kennedy — elected party chair weeks after the suit was filed — alleged that Bauman speculated out loud about his sex life during discussions about a job opening with the party.“He and [Alton] Wang also alleged unwanted touching by Bauman, including instances when the former chair massaged Rodriguez-Kennedy’s back and neck in front of others and placed his arm around Wang’s waist,” the Times said of the Los Angeles Superior Court suit.
Rodriguez-Kennedy also was “subjected to sexual harassment by Bauman throughout his employment” and witnessed Bauman sexually harassing other young gay men, the suit said. “He gets very close to young gay employees and touches them unnecessarily during conversations or when he is standing near them.”
Rodriguez-Kennedy, 31, also is president of the California Young Democrats and the former president of San Diego Democrats for Equality. He declined to comment on the settlement.
“I am not at liberty to discuss this matter,” he told Times of San Diego.
New state party chair Rusty Hicks was quoted as telling the Times: “Our party is at its best when it lives up to our values. One of those values is treating people fairly. We have reached an equitable settlement that begins the process of getting back to the work 9 million California Democrats expect from us.”
In January, Rodriguez-Kennedy was quoted as saying: “I do not know how I can champion these causes if I do not oppose sexual harassment directed at me and other young members in my own party.”
A Times review of state and federal campaign finance filings found that the state party has paid $378,348 in legal settlements to Wang, Kate Earley and Rodriguez-Kennedy, whose suit alleged a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct that was “well-known and apparently tolerated” by top officials.
Bauman resigned as party chair in November in the wake of claims of misconduct toward staff members and activists, the Times noted.
Before Rodriguez-Kennedy sued, he filed a complaint of employment discrimination Jan. 7 with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing — referencing incidents in 2018.
On Feb. 14, his attorney, Esperanza Cervantes Anderson, told the state agency that Rodriguez-Kennedy “has been harassed and intimidated by a senior official of the Party in an effort to pressure him into removing allegations from the lawsuit or abandoning the lawsuit altogether.”
The trio’s lawsuit was settled just days before “John Doe” settled a sex-molestation case against San Diego Unified school board member Kevin Beiser, also a Democrat.
Updated at 10:35 a.m. Oct. 11, 2019
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