Hill accusers describe ‘retaliatory hostile work environment’ in complaint

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Things have been different at the Indiana Statehouse over the last year for the four women who publicly accused Attorney General Curtis Hill of drunkenly groping them at a party in March 2018.

In court filings and in public comments made June 18, Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, her legislative aide Samantha Lozano, Niki DaSilva, a legislative aide for Senate Republicans, and Gabrielle McLemore, communications director for the Senate Democrats, described what they say has become a “retaliatory hostile work environment” for them at the Statehouse. The four women raised the retaliation claim, as well as other sexual harassment-related claims, in an 11-count federal complaint filed against Hill and the state of Indiana on June 18.

Reardon, for example, said she is stared down by Hill’s bodyguard, a state trooper hired to protect the attorney general, any time she is in the same room as Hill. Lozano recalled an incident in which she felt physically threatened by Hill himself, who stood so close to her at a Statehouse event “that their arms could have touched.”

DaSilva also claims to have feared Hill, locking her Statehouse office from the inside every day for more than a month after her identity as an accuser became known. And within the confines of the Legislature, McLemore said she once overheard Democratic Sen. Greg Taylor tell fellow legislators that the allegations brought by the women “were turning into an exposé on the men” who did not act to stop Hill’s alleged misconduct.

These allegations and others make up the 39-page complaint in the new lawsuit. The 11-count complaint brings claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, constitutional claims for violations of the 14th Amendment and state law claims. Hill and the state are specifically accused in the civil complaint of sexual harassment, retaliation, discrimination, substantive due process violations, battery, sexual battery and false light invasion of privacy.

The women and their lawyers—all attorneys with Katz Korin Cunningham in Indianapolis—announced the lawsuit against the Republican AG during a news conference. The women’s lawyers said in October that they intended to sue Hill after a special prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges against him.

Hill is accused of touching Reardon’s back and buttocks, running his hand down DaSilva’s back before placing both of their hands on her buttocks, rubbing his hand up and down McLemore’s back, and pulling Lozano close to him, all without their consent and while at AJ’s Lounge in downtown Indianapolis. Legislators, lobbyists and Statehouse staffers were at AJ’s on March 15, 2018, to celebrate the end of the legislative session, known as “sine die.”

Hill has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and rebuffed calls to resign from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and General Assembly leaders in both parties. His office released a statement June 18 announcing that attorneys within the Office of the Attorney General will represent both the state and Hill, who is being sued individually and in his official capacity, in the action.

“The lawsuit is related to allegations that have now been reviewed four times,” the statement said. “The investigations all concluded without any recommendations for further action.”

The women, however, say the issues presented in their lawsuit are different from those explored by previous reviews of the groping allegations.

“It is not a question of whether sexual harassment and retaliation occurred,” said Katz Korin attorney Hannah Kaufman Joseph, one of the lawyers representing the four women. “It is a question of how the attorney general and the state of Indiana will be held accountable. It is also a question of what the state of Indiana will do to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.”

Addressing reporters at Katz Korin’s Senate Avenue office June 18, the four women calmly answered questions and seemed unified in their resolve to pursue a common goal: protecting other Statehouse employees from the harassment they described. McLemore said it was a comfort to endure the scrutiny of the last year alongside the other three women, though she became emotional as she discussed the “comments” that have been directed at them in the months since their accusations became public in July 2018.

For example, the Legislature did not host its annual sine die party at AJ’s at the close of the 2019 General Assembly, and McLemore said the four women were openly blamed for the end of the longstanding tradition. Court documents also say Republican Sen. Jean Leising of Batesville was overheard telling fellow Republican Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange that the four women “got what they deserved because of how they were dressed” at the legislative party.

The complaint additionally says Reardon was removed from the Black Caucus in December 2018, and believes her removal was retaliation for reporting Hill. It also recounts an incident in which Reardon was standing beside House Speaker Brian Bosma and Republican Sen. Blake Doriot, who said, “What are we supposed to do when these women wear a black bra under a white blouse, not look?” Bosma advised Doriot to “never say that again,” and Reardon walked away.

The complaint also accuses Democratic lawmakers of making insensitive comments. For example, House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, in McLemore’s presence, quipped to Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane on the last day of session, “I know you want to get out of here early so you can make it to AJ’s by 9 tonight, right Tim?” Lanane, according to the complaint, responded, “(O)nly if Curtis is going to be there!”

Further, DaSilva told reporters that people now go around her when trying to schedule meetings with Sen. Ryan Mishler, for whom she works. That makes it more difficult to do her job, she said.•

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