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California Democratic Party settles lawsuits alleging harassment and discrimination by former leader

Eric Bauman, former leader of the California Democratic Party
Eric Bauman, former leader of the California Democratic Party, was named in three lawsuits settled by the party.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The California Democratic Party has reached settlements in three lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and workplace retaliation involving its former leader, Eric Bauman.

A statement released by current party Chairman Rusty Hicks on Friday announced the settlements but did not indicate how much the party paid to resolve the legal actions.

“Some of the California Democratic Party’s most sacred values are fairness, respect and dignity for all,” Hicks said. “Those values empower so many grassroots leaders and activists to devote their time, talent and treasure to our Party’s candidates and causes.”

Bauman announced his resignation in November 2018 following a report from The Times that revealed 10 party staff members and political activists had accused him of making crude sexual comments and engaging in unwanted touching or physical intimidation in professional settings. On Friday, Bauman released a statement about the settlements through his attorney, Neal S. Zaslavsky.

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“I fully concur with CDP Chair Rusty Hicks’ affirmation that some of the Party’s ‘most sacred values are fairness, respect, and dignity for all.,’” Bauman said. “In that spirit, I am pleased that the CDP ‘has reached equitable settlements with’ all parties.”

One of the lawsuits was filed in April by William Floyd, who served as Bauman’s assistant from March 2016 until November 2018 and claimed that Bauman performed oral sex on him without his consent on at least three occasions.

That same month, a second lawsuit was filed by former party operations director Tina McKinnor, former communications director John Vigna and party activist Spencer Dayton alleging racial discrimination, retaliation, sexual assault and harassment by Bauman, and claiming that the party failed to protect them.

The party has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle that case, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the settlements.

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A third settlement was reached with Brendan Stepp, a former video editor and field cinematographer for the party who alleged that Bauman made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him.

The party previously paid $378,348 in legal settlements to former employees Alton Wang, William Rodriguez-Kennedy and Kate Earley, according to campaign finance filings reviewed by The Times in October. The trio originally filed suit last January, alleging a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct that was “well-known and apparently tolerated” by top officials.

Former Times staff writer Christine Mai-Duc contributed to this report.


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