A California sexual-harassment scandal has been revisited given the Biden administration’s promotions of the two attorneys general who helped cover it up: Vice President Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra.
Becerra, the pending nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, was moved out of the Senate Finance Committee without recommendation after a deadlocked vote, with an expected vote next week on his fate in the full chamber.
Already, the former congressman has faced criticism, which threatened to derail his appointment, over his divisive partisan record and lack of experience in the health field.
Questions over whether he used a massive payout of state funds to broker a confidentiality agreement in order to shelter Harris’s fast-track political career may add more fuel to the fire.
Becerra replaced Harris as the state attorney general when she was elected to the Senate in 2016. He later won re-election in 2018.
Shortly thereafter, Sacramento Bee revealed in December 2018 that Larry Wallace, a top Harris aide, had resigned from her California office following inquiries about a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement with the attorney general’s office.
According to the 2018 bombshell, the complaint involved Wallace, the former director of the Division of Law Enforcement, who was alleged to have harassed and demeaned an executive assistant.
Among the allegations was one that Wallace frequently asked the victim, Danielle Hartley, to crawl under his desk and change the paper in his printer, the Bee reported.
“When she asked to move the printer to another location so she would not have to crawl under his desk in dresses and skirts, the lawsuit states, Wallace refused,” said the Bee.
The complaint also said Wallace took away Hartley’s meaningful tasks and replaced them with menial ones, such as washing his car and booking flights for his children.
That led to demeaning comments from male co-workers, who asked “Are you walking the walk of shame?”
But after filing a personnel complaint, Hartley said she experienced retaliation including micromanagement and a hostile work environment.
The initial complaint against was filed on Dec. 30, 2016, during Harris’s final days in the AG’s office.
It was settled under Becerra in May 2017—although, by then, Wallace had left to work as a senior adviser in Harris’s Sacramento office.
During the Bee‘s 2018 inquiry, Harris’s office pleaded ignorance over the complaint.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams wrote in a 2018 email to the Bee. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it.”
The report surfaced as Harris was preparing to announce her candidacy for president, with #MeToo movement very much at the forefront of media coverage.
Wallace’s resignation came shortly after the baseless left-wing smears—including those prominently leveled by Harris—against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.
Wallace was later hired by the Contra Costa County district attorney as a senior inspector for the office’s corruption unit, according to the Mercury News.
Although the DA, who had endorsed Harris, acknowledged being aware of the harassment settlement, public details of how much Harris knew remain sparse.
As part of the $400,000 settlement, Hartley agreed to a non-disclosure clause forbidding her from discussing the case or alerting the media about it.
Ironically, Harris sponsored legislation in the Senate that would prohibit such agreements in harassment cases, while playing up her support for empowering women to speak out.