Brouhaha Roils N.C. Democratic Party

     RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – The chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party violated a separation agreement during a press conference in which he defamed a former worker “in an attempt to deflect public scrutiny away from defendants’ own failings and inappropriate conduct,” the former employee claims in court.
     Adriadn [sic] Ortega sued the North Carolina Democratic Party and its Chairman David P. Parker, in Wake County Court.
     Ortega claims he began working for the party in March 2010 but left his job there near the end of 2011 after signing a “confidential sexual harassment settlement in order to reasonably and fairly settle his legal claims of discrimination and retaliatory discharge against NCDP in a confidential manner.”
     He claims the NCDP agreed to “refrain from making any disparaging remarks about Ortega … [and] if asked questions regarding the dispute that led to the sexual harassment settlement, the NCDP shall state that the matter has been resolved by agreement of the parties.”
     Ortega claims the defendants violated the agreement by releasing his EEOC complaint, calling a press conference and “schemed to protect the NCDP politically and protect Parker in his role as chairman in particular by misrepresenting the facts surrounding the plaintiff, plaintiff’s employment, and the sexual harassment settlement. Defendants … release[d] the EEOC complaint to lay the groundwork for their plan to make false allegations against Ortega, misrepresent his past statements, disparage Ortega, and publicly paint Ortega as a dishonest liar and an extortionist,” according to the complaint.
     Ortega claims that during the April 19 press conference, Parker, an attorney with more than 30 years experience, made numerous false and defamatory statements about his EEOC complaint, which was based on his claims of retaliation and not the underlying sexual harassment.
     The allegedly false statements include Parker’s assertion that “the employee says he had a satisfactory working relationship here at the NCDP,” that “the unwanted shoulder rubs addressed in the Dec. 8, 2011 letter are similar to Mitt Romney’s one time touching of Rick Perry,” and that “the shoulder rubs were not truly ‘unwanted’ by ‘various people, including Mr. Ortega,'” according to the complaint.
     He claims: “Defendants’ statements that the reported conversations about clothing were ‘just normal discourse’ … was a false, intentional distortion of the actual claim. … The actual statement in the Dec. 8, 2011 letter is ‘the Executive Director often solicited my opinion about his clothes. He would point both hands to his crotch area and ask me how his crotched [sic] looked.
     “Defendants’ statements that ‘there was nothing sexual about’ the pretend punches … was false at the time it was made. … The actual statement in the Dec. 8, 2011 letter is ‘the Executive Director would frequently pretend to punch my crotch and make a popping noise with his mouth.'”
     Parker also claimed that Ortega’s allegation that he had been shown a picture of the executive director’s penis was false, and said at the press conference that “‘it has been described to me that there was a picture of a guy standing nearly naked on the streets of San Francisco which people saw in this office. But it’s not alleged in the EEOC complaint. It is just not. It’s neither unwanted nor offensive.’ This statement was false at the time it was made, and defendants knew the same was false. The picture referenced in the Dec. 8, 2011 letter was on [the director’s] personal laptop. The Executive Director showing a picture of his penis prior to the date of retaliatory dismissal in the EEOC complaint does not make this repulsive action any less unwanted or offensive,” according to the complaint.
     Ortega seeks punitive damages for libel, slander and breach of contract. He claims that “the statements made during the press conference disparage Ortega as they improperly identify and portray him as an extortionist, liar, overly sensitive, as being dishonest, and generally being a person you would not want to hire.”
     Ortega is represented by Kieran Shanahan.

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