After a marathon 13-hour party meeting Sunday, 26-year-old Stober announced his resignation. He was accused of “harassment, intimidation and creation of a hostile work environment,” according to a memo by three vice chairs of the local party organization.
Bailey Stober, the embattled chair of the King County Democrats, resigned Sunday after two months of calls to step down amid allegations that he’d harassed and bullied the party’s former executive director, Natalia Koss Vallejo.
The resignation came at the end of a 13-hour party meeting in which the accusations were hashed out in an internal, trial-like proceeding. Stober quit after being found guilty in that proceeding of five violations, including improperly firing Koss Vallejo, conduct unbecoming an officer, creation of a hostile-work environment, and spending party funds without proper authorization, according to Bevin McLeod, a member of the county party executive board.
After many years in party leadership, “it is clear my time has expired as one of your party leaders,” Stober said in a speech at the end of the marathon meeting.
Koss Vallejo on Monday strongly criticized the county party’s leaders for the way they handled the investigation.
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“The whole process has been so dehumanizing. I have been literally treated like I do not exist, even though I am the primary scope of the investigation,” Koss Vallejo said. “Bailey Stober has called upon due process so many times in this entire nine-to-ten week ordeal. At no point was I ever given anything resembling due process — or just a professional handling of the situation.”
As an example, she said King County Democratic party leaders did not invite her to speak at key meetings in which her allegations were discussed– or even inform her of the meetings — while Stober, as chair, “was able to manipulate the rules, speak from the pulpit and send mass emails to people.” During Sunday’s meeting, Koss Vallejo said she was sequestered in a witness room for all but the time in which she was allowed to testify at the closed-door executive session.
Sharon Mast, acting chair of the King County Democrats, did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday.
In his volunteer position as chair of the county Democrats, Stober had been accused of “harassment, intimidation and creation of a hostile work environment,” according to a memo by three vice chairs of the local party organization, who called for his resignation in February. Stober also was accused of unnecessarily spending party funds.
The accusations centered on Koss Vallejo, whom he fired earlier this year, citing video of her dumping a beverage on a car in a Bellingham hotel parking lot. Video of that incident was posted anonymously to YouTube and flagged for reporters just before the allegations against Stober became public.
The February memo from the party vice chairs said Stober repeatedly called Koss Vallejo derogatory names and used offensive and sexist insults when she declined to go out drinking with him. The memo also said Stober had spent party money on hotel rooms and food unnecessarily, leaving the organization in precarious financial position.
Stober, 26, who was the youngest-ever chair of the county party, spent the last several weeks vociferously denying the accusations, arguing he was being railroaded. In a February text message to a supporter, released under a public-records request, he wrote “politics is a blood sport and some in leadership think I’m rising too far and too fast so they try to cap you at the knees.”
But McLeod, who filed the complaint, said it was solely motivated by concerns about Stober’s behavior. She said she sought the investigation after becoming alarmed following a two-hour conversation with Koss Vallejo about how Stober treated her. Koss Vallejo was fired by Stober after the complaint against him was made, McLeod said.
Stober has been on paid administrative leave from his day job as communications director for King County Assessor John Wilson. The assessor’s office recently hired a private attorney to look into the allegations against Stober, at an expected cost of $7,000 to $10,000.
Chief Deputy Assessor Al Dams said Monday that investigation is still ongoing, with Stober continuing to receive his $98,000 annual salary pending its outcome.
As late as last week, Stober claimed he’d been largely exonerated of the claims against him, according to a report by Seattle journalist Erica C. Barnett, who has extensively covered the Stober saga.
In his resignation speech Sunday, the video of which was posted to Facebook, Stober thanked the Democratic organization for allowing him a chance to defend himself, saying that all he’d wanted was due process.
He said Democrats have work to do to ensure “safe spaces” for women and people of color. “As a community and as a party we have so much more work to do and if I have to be the first one to go through this process to open our eyes to flaws that we have … so be it,” he said, apologizing to “everyone that I have hurt through my words and through my actions and my irresponsibility.”
Koss Vallejo said her ordeal shows small party organizations, which are essentially private clubs, are ill-equipped to handle allegations of employee mistreatment. “I do think that this whole process that he [Stober] dragged out has exposed some major gaps in the party and how we handle things like this,” she said.