A memo written by three vice-chairs of the county party says King County Democrats Chair Bailey Stober repeatedly called a woman who worked for the party derogatory names and repeatedly pressured her to have drinks with him. Stober has denied the allegations.
The chair of the King County Democrats has been asked to resign by three vice-chairs of the county party following allegations of “harassment, intimidation and creation of a hostile work environment,” according to an internal party memo obtained by The Seattle Times.
Among other allegations, the memo says Bailey Stober repeatedly called a woman who worked for the party derogatory names and repeatedly pressured her to have drinks with him.
Stober denied the allegations in a phone interview Friday and said the vice-chairs had “issued preliminary findings without conducting a fair investigation or having any sort of due process.”
The allegations involve a woman who had worked for the King County Democrats and was fired by Stober. On Friday, Stober attributed the Feb. 2 firing to an incident in Bellingham last month in which the former employee had dumped liquid from a cup onto a car containing an item she believed displayed an anti-immigrant message. That incident was caught on surveillance video and posted anonymously to YouTube.
The former party employee said in an interview Friday the investigation into Stober was launched before the Bellingham incident.
“The investigation was not retaliatory and the complaints were made before he fired me,” said the woman, who asked not to be named. “I don’t want it to appear I am retaliating against him, because if anything it’s the opposite.”
She also said she had not personally sought the investigation against Stober. As for the Bellingham incident, she said she’d apologized to the car owner, who did not press charges.
The memo written by the three vice chairs, Orchideh Raisdanai, Michael Maddux and Cat Williams, says one of them was alerted on Jan. 24 of allegations against Stober. (Williams has since resigned.)
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The vice-chairs, according to the memo, consulted legal counsel, interviewed witnesses and found cause to believe Stober had repeatedly called the former employee “stupid,” and used offensive and sexist insults when she declined to go out for shots of alcohol with him. The memo also alleged Stober had spent money on hotel rooms and food unnecessarily and that “staff continuously is intimidated” by him.
Stober said he had seen the memo, but was not given detailed information about the accusations. “I haven’t seen the complaint or the allegations. How do you respond to something you can’t see?” he said.
David Ginsberg, chair of the 34th Legislative District Democrats, and a member of the county party executive board, said Friday the board would appoint an ombudsman to conduct a “proper and thorough investigation.”
Ginsberg ripped the actions of Maddux and the other party vice-chairs, saying they’d conducted “a bungled investigation” and “seem to have gone a little rogue.” He added that he had seen no evidence that the former party employee was harassed by Stober, saying the two had socialized and seemed “chummy” before her firing.
But Melissa Taylor, a party volunteer who spent much of last year at the party’s office in Auburn, said Friday she participated in the investigation against Stober, providing a written statement in which she described observing “a significant amount of verbal harassment” of the former party employee and other volunteers.
“This verbal harassment of many individuals included derogatory comments about weight, hair color, relationship status and other sensitive personal topics,” she wrote. Taylor said she brought her concerns to Stober, who sometimes responded that he had just been joking.
Raisdanai declined to comment, as did King County party-affairs committee chair Nathaniel Block. Several other officers didn’t immediately return requests for comment. Maddux said the vice-chairs forwarded their memo to the party executive board but declined to discuss its contents.
In an email Friday morning to the King County Democrats executive board, a copy of which was provided to The Seattle Times, Maddux and Raisdanai said they wanted information about the allegations kept confidential. The email said they had spoken with two independent witnesses and “received additional evidence supporting the allegations” against Stober, which they did not detail.
They added they’d notified Stober of their investigation on Feb. 2 and had requested an interview with him Feb. 4 but that Stober declined an immediate interview.
Stober said he asked for a delay because of a busy work schedule, and that he wanted to have a lawyer present. In addition to his volunteer role as King County Democrats chair, Stober works as communications director for King County Assessor John Wilson, whose office is busy preparing to mail out property-tax bills that include big tax increases.
He also slammed the investigation by the party vice-chairs as lacking in thoroughness, saying they did not, for example, interview the party treasurer despite making allegations about spending decisions.
Stober said he will seek a fair hearing into the claims against him and downplayed the importance of the three party vice-chairs who wrote the memo with findings against him.
“The facts are three people that have called for my resignation out of a board of over 70,” he said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Daniel Beekman contributed to this report.