Dem. Rep. Suspends Top Aide During Investigation Of Touching, Comments

Tom Williams/CQPHO

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) placed her chief of staff on administrative leave Tuesday during an investigation of allegations of inappropriate touching and comments made against the top aide, Dwayne Duron Marshall.

“It has been brought to my attention that unidentified former staffers allege that they were the victims of inappropriate sexual conduct while employed with the office sometime in the past,” Lawrence said in a statement released Tuesday and provided to TPM. (Read the full statement below.)

She added that while “there have been occasions when employees have brought workplace concerns to my attention and those concerns were promptly addressed,” “none of the concerns brought to my attention involved allegations of sexual harassment — behavior that I will not tolerate.”

Politico reported Tuesday that three unnamed former staffers told the congresswoman that they were not comfortable around Marshall due to inappropriate comments he made about their appearance and physical contact. Politico noted that none of the former staffers used the term “sexual harassment” with the publication to refer to Marshall’s behavior. But it did report that their complaints about Marshall’s behavior had not affected his employment.

Politico said that in an interview, Lawrence acknowledged “management-style issues” in her office but did not specify further.

Marshall responded to Politico’s story by saying that “[i]n my 28 years of public service, I have never had any kind of complaint filed against me nor have I ever sexually harassed anyone!”

And Lawrence herself said “I want to be very clear, very firm, that I had no knowledge of any allegations of sexual harassment in my office, and when I say none, I mean none.”

The congresswoman later added that the had requested outside assistance to “investigate and assess the current environment of my office so that I can take appropriate corrective action as necessary.”

One accuser said that the congresswoman was “complicit because she knows.”

“She knows he makes comments,” the ex-staffer continued to Politico. “She knows he rubs the back and rubs the shoulders. … She’d say, ‘I know there are some problems, but he has his good points too,’ and ‘[the good] outweighs the other stuff.’”

At the end of her statement, Lawrence urged the ex-staffers to come to her with their complaints. “These individuals can be assured that they will not be retaliated against for sharing this information,” she said.

Read Lawrence’s statement below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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