Lobbyist files sexual harassment complaint against Georgia lawmaker

A lobbyist at the Georgia Capital has accused Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, of sexual harrassment. Shafer has denied the charges. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

A lobbyist at the Georgia Capital has accused Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, of sexual harrassment. Shafer has denied the charges. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

A veteran statehouse lobbyist has filed a sexual harassment complaint against state Sen. David Shafer, a leading Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, accusing him of retaliating against her when she turned back his advances.

Shafer responded that the accusations — filed with the Senate Clerk’s Office on Tuesday and obtained by The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution — are untrue.

“This false complaint is about politics, not the truth, and that’s why it is no coincidence that it was filed the day after I qualified to run for lieutenant governor,” the legislator from Duluth said.

“I welcome an investigation and will cooperate fully because it will show categorically that there is no truth to (the lobbyist’s) ridiculous claims and that she is a 15-minute, attention-seeking wannabe trying to settle an old score.”

The lobbyist, a 20-year Capitol veteran, said Shafer retaliated against her and harassed her after helping her get a bill passed in 2011. The AJC does not name alleged victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

She has hired famed defense lawyer Bruce Harvey to handle her case.

“My client filed this complaint in good faith under the new procedures passed by the General Assembly,” Harvey said in a statement. “We trust that the Senate will carefully investigate the misconduct of Senator Shafer and also protect my client’s confidentiality and prevent any retaliation as the rules require.

“These are serious charges that warrant a thorough review. And we stand behind every allegation in that complaint.”

Sexual harassment cases have roiled statehouses across the country, but Georgia’s system is set up so complaints are handled behind closed doors. The Georgia General Assembly exempted itself from the Georgia Open Records Act, so any complaints filed are secret.

The complaint said the harassment involving Shafer has been going on for years.

“On multiple occasions over several years Shafer has harassed, demanded sexual favors, created a hostile work environment and retaliated against (the lobbyist) when she refused his multiple sexual overtures and requests,” the complaint said.

The lobbyist and Shafer have known each other since the early 1990s, when they worked on Republican political campaigns.

Once Shafer was elected to the Senate in 2002, the complaint says, he asked the lobbyist whom she was sleeping with and other personal questions, such as whether she’d had breast enhancement.

Later Shafer served as chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the chamber, and as Senate president pro tempore, the body’s second-highest post.

While he was chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee, Shafer helped the lobbyist with a bill, she said. When it needed a push on the final night of the legislative session, the lobbyist said Shafer approached her with a promise to get the bill passed if she showed him her breasts.

In the complaint, the lobbyist said she responded: “Sure David. Whatever. Just get it done.”

Once the bill passed, he returned, and she refused to show him her breasts.

After the session, the lobbyist said Shafer began calling and telling her she “owed him” for his help. The lobbyist said she told Shafer she owed him nothing, but he continued to call, according to the complaint.

“Shafer’s misconduct not only continued but it became more brazen and alarming,” the complaint says.

In the fall of 2011, the lobbyist said Shafer requested they meet at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

“He said, ‘you don’t have to have sex with me,” the complaint said. “We can just spoon naked. I just want to see you naked.”

After turning him down, the lobbyist was convinced Shafer would hurt her clients. He eventually stopped talking to her.

The complaint says the lobbyist reported Shafer’s behavior to several people, including leaders in the Legislature.

Shafer was second in charge of the Georgia Senate before stepping down recently from the leadership post to concentrate on his race for lieutenant governor. He has raised more money than any of the other candidates, collecting big money from statehouse lobbyists, association political action committees and institutional donors.

The lawmaker said the lobbyist who accused him has a history of making things up.

“Senator Shafer’s office had a strict policy against one-on-one meetings with (the lobbyist) — for precisely this reason: her penchant for making up false stories,” his campaign said.

“Her history of making false claims is well known in the State Capitol and required this strict internal office policy,” it said.

Shafer’s campaign produced affidavits from three people attesting to that policy.

One, from his administrative aide, Anna Boggs, said Shafer told her 15 years ago never to schedule or allow the lobbyist to meet with him without a staff member present. Boggs said she attended meetings with Shafer when he met with the lobbyist.

“The idea that Senator Shafer ‘harassed’ (the lobbyist) is ridiculous,” Boggs said in the affidavit. “For the entire time I worked for him, he sought to minimize his contact with her and avoid being alone with her. I believe the allegations to be false.”

The other two affidavits came from lobbyists who have contributed to Shafer’s campaign for lieutenant governor.

Because of big increases in the number of major sexual harassment accusations against celebrities and politicians last fall, Georgia lawmakers began reviewing their policies for dealing with those cases.

Sexual harassment complaints involving legislators and employees can be reported to the House Ethics Committee, the Senate Administrative Affairs Committee, the secretary of the Senate, the clerk of the House or the legislative fiscal officer, according to the Georgia General Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Then complaints would be forwarded to the Senate or House ethics committees for investigation by either a subcommittee or an outside third party.

Punishments for violations of the policy include counseling, termination or other discipline. Legislators could be expelled, fined or censured by a two-thirds vote of the House or Senate, according to the Georgia Constitution.

State Senate Clerk David Cook said of the complaint, “If I was (aware of it), I couldn’t comment on it.”

State Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, declined to say when he was made aware of the accusations against Shafer.

“I don’t need to comment on that right now,” Cowsert said.