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Eau Claire DA Gary King accused of harassment, working while intoxicated

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:25 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Several employees within the Eau Claire County District Attorney’s office say their boss, District Attorney Gary King, has been making inappropriate comments.

According to documents obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Administration, one employee appeared to be the target of a majority of the comments.

The documents note that the questionable behavior started back in July 2019 when King “started hanging around” talking about the woman’s upcoming wedding. The following month King commented that the employee’s husband was “lucky to have her.” During that summer, the woman claims King made comments about her clothes, at one point telling her she could not wear a certain dress because, “it’s too distracting for me.”

The employee says King’s comments took an intimate turn in early 2020. On an outing to meet with new employees, King commented that the two of them should stop at a nearby hotel, “Let’s get a room. We will take pictures…” The woman says King kept bringing up the idea throughout the business meeting.

A few months later, the woman says, King approached her and told her she “needs to stay out of his dreams,” that she’s “getting him in trouble.” She said the way he told her this, he appeared upset, like the dreams were real.

From there the behavior escalated. The woman says King hugged her several times in the office and played with her hair. This led to him asking the woman if she wanted to have a threesome. Other employees interviewed said they heard King mention “fictional and assumed sexual exploitations” of other people.

By December 2020, members of the staff were aware of the unwanted attention this employee was receiving and would try to interject when King attempted to be alone with her. On December 23, after King walked into the woman’s office, she let another employee know and they wrote back asking if she needed them to come in.

At the start of January 2021, King was mourning the death of an Eau Claire Police officer. The woman says that’s when King started getting increasingly physical and erratic. The day of the officer’s wake the woman says King told her he loved her, took off her mask and tried to kiss her. Later that day she claims he also forced her to sit on his lap saying, “You need to sit here and comfort me.” This event triggered a “safety plan” which alerted other staffers to interrupt if King went into a space alone with the employee. The report prepared by Eau Claire Co. HR makes several notes of when this safety plan was “in action.”

On February 10, King and the employee were scheduled to meet to discuss recruiting efforts. Instead of discussing applicants, the woman says King asked her about her sex life. She says she tried to turn the conversation back to King’s wife to which he replied he “honors his vows.” The woman asked King if he could keep their relationship professional to which he replied 95% yes he can, but 5% of the time it’s too hard to concentrate.

Following that exchange the woman went to HR.

The report goes on to say that on February 16, King was ordered to appear in person for a hearing. When he arrived, his behavior was so unusual a bailiff notified Sheriff Ron Cramer. King left the courtroom and went the woman’s office. She says at that point he told her, “We’re going to end up together.” The sheriff made it to the DA’s offices; he found King in a conference room and asked if he was experiencing a medical condition that could explain his behavior in court. In a statement, Cramer wrote, “He started to cry and started into a rant about different things.”

Cramer left the conference room and went back to his office. After consulting with another deputy Cramer returned to King’s office and offered him a chance to take a PBT (preliminary breath test). King refused. At this point, Cramer wrote in the statement, “I then informed him that I just discovered that a complaint was being filed with the Eau Claire County Human Recourses [sic] on Sexual Harassment of a County Employee. He did not respond after hearing me. He was told that as Sheriff, I would be contacting the Governor’s Office as he [King] is elected by the people and request that the State would investigate.

A third party was brought into investigate the claims of sexual harassment. After a three hour interview with King on March 3 and reviewing a summary of the employees’ complaints the investigator determined, “Despite his denials, it is my opinion that DA King did make inappropriate comments to women, most notably [redacted], which made them uncomfortable.”

The investigator noted that King was dealing with the death of a police officer he had worked closely with, but noted “Whatever the underlying reasons for his behaviors, DA King’s emotional and erratic behaviors on February 16, 2021, have caused employees to be concerned about having to interact with him.”

In their conclusion the investigator wrote, “As an elected official, only the Governor has the authority to remove King from public office or take formal action to address his behaviors. Therefore, it is my recommendations that a copy of this letter and a copy of the summary of the information gathered by your [EC Co. HR] be forwarded to the State Department of Administration for further consideration and disposition.”

In an e-mail, the Department of Administration confirmed the state is reviewing the complaint and communicating with the complainant. There is not a set schedule for the process and if a commissioner is appointed as a result of the complaint, they would set the timetable for the state’s investigation.

WEAU reached out to Gary King for comment. He replied with the following written statement, “In February of this year, I was made aware of a complaint against me regarding my conduct as the District Attorney. In response to the complaint, I have cooperated fully with the investigation into this matter. In addition, I have also provided a significant amount of documentation in support of my position on this matter. The District Attorney’s office consists of 27 employees.

In my nearly 3500 days in the office, I was never, prior to this complaint, made aware of any concerns regarding my conduct. To the contrary, I have received hundreds of examples of [sic] feedback over the years from office staff, both written and verbal, regarding the office environment that I promote and my conduct in that environment. As this is an ongoing matter, I will have no further comment at this time.”

As for employees who work in the District Attorney’s offices, County Administrator Kathryn Schauf wrote in a statement, “Eau Claire County is committed to our policies that prohibit harassment in the workplace. We continue to meet and work with the employees who came forward with the allegations to make sure that they are and continue to remain safe while working for Eau Claire County. Because of District Attorney King’s status as an elected official and state employee we have continued to keep the Department of Administration updated any time we have new information concerning this matter, pending the conclusion of their investigation.”

In the past 25 years only once has a sitting governor attempted to remove a District Attorney from office. In 2010, Former Governor Jim Doyle initiated a process to remove former Calumet County DA Ken Kratz from office in the fall of 2010. Kratz resigned before that process could take place.

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