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Former Eau Claire County DA responds to sexual harassment allegations in federal lawsuit

Gary King said he never sexually harassed an Eau Claire County employee while he was the DA of Eau Claire County.
Gary King said he never sexually harassed an Eau Claire County employee while he was the DA of...
Gary King said he never sexually harassed an Eau Claire County employee while he was the DA of Eau Claire County.(WEAU)
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 11:53 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2022 at 12:00 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - Former Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King is responding to a federal civil lawsuit filed against him in January by a former co-worker.

In documents filed with the case Friday at the U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin, King said that he denies allegations that he sexually harassed a woman he worked closely with for more than a year and is requesting that the lawsuit filed against him be dismissed. He also asked for a jury trial.

The plaintiff is listed as Jessica Bryan. Bryan works as the Victim Witness Coordinator in the Victim Witness Office for Eau Claire County. The complaint says, “In her role, she worked closely with the Eau Claire District Attorney’s Office. Institutionally speaking, the District Attorney controlled, at least in part, the terms and conditions of Bryan’s employment with Eau Claire County.”

Bryan’s attorney, Madison-based attorney Paul Kinne, said in January that the lawsuit is going forward “In part because she was harmed by someone in a position of power.”

“She wants what she deserves to compensate for the harm; the perfect compensation would be turning back time and making sure it never happens, but that’s not possible, obviously,” Kinne said in January.

King’s response to the lawsuit denies that he sexually harassed Bryan or made inappropriate comments to her. He admitted to kissing her on the cheek as an expression of gratitude, but not in a sexual way. He denied being frequently intoxicated when the alleged harassment happened. King denied that any harassment took place in response to several alleged instances listed in the lawsuit.

Bryan filed a complaint about King’s behavior with Eau Claire County’s office of Human Resources in February 2021. The federal filing claims, “Around mid-February 2021, Bryan made a formal complaint to Eau Claire County human resources. However, at some point, Corporation Counsel for Eau Claire County informed Bryan that because King was the District Attorney, Eau Claire County ‘could not touch him.’”

In the document filed Friday with the case, King said that he knew about the formal complaint, but doesn’t know what Bryan was informed of in his response to the accusation.

third-party investigation ordered that month by the HR department concluded in March 2021 that “King did make inappropriate comments to women, notably [redacted], which made them uncomfortable.” The offending actions described in that report are duplicated in the federal filing.

Gov. Tony Evers appointed a commissioner to investigate the claims of abuse made against King last June; less than a month later, King submitted his resignation effective August 14, and the investigation was dropped by the governor’s office. Peter Rindal was appointed as King’s replacement in August.

Rindal will serve as DA for the rest of King’s term, which expires in Jan. 2025.

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