Former aide Carla Cavalier on Thursday dismissed City Councilman Nate Holden's contention that her sexual harassment accusations against him are politically motivated. Cavalier said her therapist urged her to take legal action against Holden to ensure her self-esteem and emotional health.
Cavalier, 32, says her case was repeatedly rejected by lawyers, many of whom have business with the city and were afraid of offending Holden. As a result, it was six months after she left her job that she made her accusations public, she said.
In her most extensive public statements since she filed a $500,000 complaint against Holden with the state Fair Employment and Housing Department, Cavalier said the councilman's alleged behavior toward women was widely known and discussed at City Hall. For the most part, she said, the behavior was tolerated.
"I did a lot of soul searching before I did this," Cavalier said. "The only thing that keeps me going is I know I'm telling the truth."
Neither Holden nor anyone else in his office would comment on the Cavalier interview after it was described Thursday to an aide. A spokeswoman said Holden had been advised Thursday to remain silent about the allegations.
Earlier this week, the two-term councilman vehemently denied that he has ever behaved improperly toward Cavalier or any other woman. He contended that the allegations were concocted by Cavalier's lawyer, Melanie Lomax, as political revenge for not attending a City Council meeting that was important to Lomax.
In a 45-minute interview Thursday at Lomax's office, Cavalier said she has no hidden agenda. She said she had never met Lomax before this summer.
But after repeatedly being turned down by attorneys, Cavalier saw Lomax on television and telephoned her.
Two other women who worked for Holden have defended Cavalier. One said she saw Holden sexually harassing co-workers; the other said she had been the target of his unwanted advances. Like Cavalier, they said his behavior was widely known in City Hall.
Cavalier, who has not worked since she resigned from Holden's office in April after four years on the job, contended that she had been subjected to demeaning, sexually laden remarks from Holden and men on his staff from her first day on the job.
Cavalier said the behavior continued almost daily in Holden's City Hall office, where she was a receptionist.
Further, she said it occurred every time she saw Holden after she was transferred to a job as deputy in one of his district field offices.
She said Holden's conduct ranged from suggestive comments at work to fondling at a holiday party. The more she resisted the behavior, she said, the worse it got.
Holden, she said, delighted in running his hand down the back of her head, then using his fingers to twist and pull at a "tail" she wore at the nape of her neck.
Asked why she had not filed a complaint against him during the four years she worked for him, she said she feared losing her job.
"I was afraid of being blacklisted. I was afraid of the consequences," Cavalier said.
At one point, she said, she sought advice from the city's Commission on the Status of Women and worked up the courage to sign a complaint. But she said she backed down after hearing people talking in explicit and sometimes negative terms about a woman who had accused another councilman's chief deputy of sexual harassment.
"I didn't want anyone talking about me like that," Cavalier said.
"I didn't want them saying what he did to my buttocks or to my breasts."
She said she resigned in April after her supervisor told her that she would be fired for being "rude and insulting" to Holden if she did not resign.