The National Restaurant Association for the first time publicly acknowledged today that it settled with a former employee who accused Herman Cain, then head of the association, of sexual harassment.
It also released the woman from the confidentiality clause of the agreement, if she so chooses to speak. But her lawyer, who spoke in a televised news conference today, said she no longer wishes to do so.
"Based upon the information currently available, we can confirm that more than a decade ago, in July 1999, Mr. Bennett's client filed a formal internal complaint, in accordance with the Association's existing policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment,” the association’s statement reads, in part.
The statement goes on to note, “Cain disputed the allegations” and the restaurant association and the worker settled “without any admission of liability."
The lawyer, Joel P. Bennett, had requested his client be released from the confidentiality agreement because, he believed Cain had violated it with comments made regarding his client’s work performance. His client had indicated earlier in the week that she did want to speak, but has since said she does not, Bennett said.
A First Read review of federal election filings finds Cain ended his previous short-lived presidential bid in 1999 the same month as the harassment complaint was filed. "Cain for President" filed for termination on July 15, 1999 (in a letter dated July 14), as part of Cain's July Quarterly report.
Cain did not appear to be a serious candidate at the time. He was not well known on a national stage and had only raised $28,537.43, according to FEC filings. Cain's treasurer at the time, W. Reed Samson, noted in the 1999 July Quarterly filing that Cain "ended all campaign activity" prior to June 30, 1999.
Bennett told reporters Friday that because multiple women have made accusations against Cain that there must be some truth to the allegations.
"There's an expression: where there's smoke, there's fire,” Bennett said. “The fact that there are multiple complaints tells me that it is more likely than not that there was some sexual harassment activity by this man at that time… the fact that there's more than one complaint is meaningful."
Bennett called Cain’s claims that the resolution was a severance agreement and not a legal settlement an “inaccurate description of the settlement agreement."
"This was a settlement of an internal complaint of sexual harassment,” Bennett said. “It was not a severance agreement."
Bennett also said there had been “more than one” incident of sexual harassment involving his client, and that Cain was made aware of all the incidents in the internal complaint filed in 1999.
"Mr. Cain knows the specific incidents that were alleged,” Bennett said. “My client filed a written complaint in 1999 against him specifically, and it had very specific incidents in it, and if he chooses to not remember or not acknowledge those that's his issue."
He said the complaints were settled with a “monetary settlement” but did not elaborate on how much his client received or on the details of the allegations. He said his client doesn’t want to be a “public figure” and doesn’t want to discuss the issue further.
“She and her husband see no value in revisiting this matter now nor in discussing the matter any further publicly or privately,” Bennett said.
The Cain campaign, which said in a press release earlier today that it has raised more than $1 million since the story broke Sunday, told NBC’s Andrew Rafferty it would like to move on.
"We look forward to focusing our attention on the real issues impacting this country,” said Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon, “like fixing this broken economy and putting Americans back to work through our 9-9-9 Plan, as well as strengthening national security."