Alaska governor candidate faces sexual harassment lawsuit

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Alaska faces accusations he sexually harassed a former assistant while he was a borough mayor.

The lawsuit filed Friday accuses Charlie Pierce of “constant unwanted physical touching, sexual remarks, and sexual advances,” the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The case did not show up in an online court records system Saturday. The woman’s Anchorage-based attorney, Caitlin Shortell, said in an email to The Associated Press it was filed in the Kenai Superior Court, and she expected a judge to be assigned Monday.

“When an elected official abuses their power and position to sexually harass public servants, they must be held accountable,” Shortell said.

The AP does not normally identify alleged victims in sexual harassment cases.

Pierce is one of four candidates running for governor in Alaska, and all appeared at a forum Saturday morning in Anchorage.

“I have no comments on future litigation,” Pierce told the AP following the debate.

He said he also had no plans to end his campaign just a few weeks before the Nov. 8 election. “I’ll be in the race,” he said.

The lawsuit also names the Kenai Peninsula Borough south of Anchorage as a defendant in the case, claiming the local government failed to protect the woman. She also claims the borough provided no way to report harassment or discrimination without fear of reprisal.

An email seeking comment was sent to the borough’s attorney, Sean Kelley.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was Pierce’s assistant for about 18 months, until June 2022.

Pierce announced in August he would resign in September to focus on his campaign for governor. The borough assembly later released a statement stating Pierce was asked to consider voluntarily resigning after an employee made what were deemed to be credible claims of harassment against him.

In the lawsuit, she claims Pierce touched her breast, made sexual remarks, falsely imprisoned her in his private office, kissed her neck and face, asked questions about her sex life and made unwanted and unsolicited embraces and massages.

The borough has paid two other former employees a combined $267,000 in settlements for separate complaints against Pierce, the Daily News reported.

In one, the borough paid former human resources director Sandra “Stormy” Brown $150,000 in a settlement after she claimed in a lawsuit that Pierce fired her after she told him she had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. She claimed gender discrimination, disability discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.

The borough also paid $117,000 to settle a complaint from a subsequent human resources director if the employee agreed he would not make “further allegations of ‘illegal acts’ by Mayor Pierce” and rescind his allegations of bullying, the Anchorage newspaper reported.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Anchorage Daily News.