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Aide to Sen. Kamala Harris resigns after harassment settlement surfaces

Alexei Koseff, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A longtime top staff member of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris resigned Wednesday after The Sacramento Bee inquired about a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement resulting from his time working for Harris at the California Department of Justice.

Larry Wallace, who served as the director of the Division of Law Enforcement under Harris when she was state attorney general, was accused by his former executive assistant in December 2016 of "gender harassment" and other demeaning behavior, including frequently asking her to crawl under his desk to change the paper in his printer.

By the time the lawsuit against the department settled less than five months later, in May 2017, Wallace had transitioned to work for the newly elected senator as a senior adviser in her Sacramento office.

"We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously. This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it," Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams wrote in an email.

Wallace did not return a call to his office seeking comment.

In her lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Danielle Hartley said she was recruited to be Wallace's assistant during a 2011 restructuring of the Division of Law Enforcement. Wallace, a former Oakland police detective who previously worked under Harris when she was the district attorney of San Francisco, had been appointed director earlier that year.

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During an unspecified period, the lawsuit states, "Hartley had concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender."

According to the lawsuit, Wallace placed his printer on the floor underneath his desk and ordered Hartley to replace the paper or ink on a daily basis. When she asked to move the printer to another location so she would not have to crawl under desk in dresses and skirts, the lawsuit states, Wallace refused. Wallace frequently asked Hartley to put paper in the printer while he was sitting at his desk or in front of other male executives from the division, according to the lawsuit.

Hartley also complained in the lawsuit that Wallace took away her "meaningful tasks" and put her in charge of running personal errands instead, including booking flights for Wallace's children and washing and performing maintenance on his car. When she would return from these assignments, the lawsuit states, "co-workers would make hostile comments to her including, 'Are you walking the walk of shame?'"

According to the lawsuit, Hartley eventually informed her supervisor, Shannon Patterson, of the harassment and asked for help. "Hartley observed Patterson enter Wallace's office and met with him behind closed doors," the lawsuit states, but after that, she began to experience retaliation.

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