GOP candidate for governor of Alaska faces sexual harassment lawsuit

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A Republican candidate for governor in Alaska is facing allegations that he sexually harassed a former aide when he was mayor of the county.

The lawsuit filed Friday accuses Charlie Pierce of “unwanted constant physical contact, sexual comments and sexual advances,” the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The case did not appear in an online court records system on Saturday. The woman’s Anchorage-based attorney, Caitlin Shortell, said in an email to The Associated Press that she appeared in Kenai Superior Court and that she expected a judge to be assigned on Monday.

“When an elected official abuses their power and position to sexually harass public servants, they must be held accountable,” Shortell said.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims in sexual harassment cases.

Pierce is one of four candidates running for governor in Alaska, all appearing at a forum Saturday morning in Anchorage.

“I have no comment on future litigation,” Pierce told the AP after the debate.

He said he also had no plans to end his campaign just weeks before the Nov. 8 election. “I’ll be in the race,” she said.

Charlie Pierce, a Republican running for governor of Alaska, is shown before a televised debate on October 19 in Anchorage, Alaska.

The lawsuit also names the township on the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, as a defendant in the case, alleging that the local government failed to protect the woman. It also claims that the municipality did not provide any way to report harassment or discrimination without fear of retaliation.

An email seeking comment was sent to City Attorney Sean Kelley.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was Pierce’s assistant for about 18 months, until June 2022.

Pierce announced in August that he would resign in September to focus on his campaign for governor. The county council later released a statement saying Pierce was asked to consider voluntarily resigning after an employee made what were believed to be credible claims of harassment against him.

In the lawsuit, she alleges that Pierce touched her breasts, made sexual comments, falsely imprisoned her in his private office, kissed her on the neck and face, asked her questions about her sex life, and gave her unwanted hugs and massages, or requested.

The city paid two other former employees a combined $267,000 in settlements for separate complaints against Pierce, the Daily News reported.

In one, the city paid former human resources director Sandra “Stormy” Brown $150,000 in a settlement after she claimed in a lawsuit that Pierce fired her after she told him she had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. She alleged gender discrimination, disability discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment.

The city also paid $117,000 to resolve a complaint from a subsequent human resources director if the employee agreed that he would not make “further accusations of ‘illegal acts’ by Mayor Pierce” and rescind his accusations of bullying, the Anchorage newspaper reported.

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