...former National Restaurant Association board chairman Joseph Fassler offered a firm defense of GOP presidential front-runner Herman Cain, along with an explanation for how Washington’s best-kept secret — the identities of Cain’s sexual-harassment accusers — was also kept from the association’s board.
“The accusations? It’s a hatchet job, in my opinion,” Fassler told TheDC from his Phoenix, Ariz. office. “My gut tells me it’s a hatchet job. He gets a lead, he gets some traction, and the next thing you know, here come these allegations. It’s sad.”
Fassler said his four years in leadership positions on the association’s board — including one year as chairman and another as past chairman — overlapped with two and one-half years of Cain’s time as CEO. Fassler was first elected to the board in 1984, and was chairman in 1997.
While he said he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of reports that the restaurant trade group made five-figure payments to employees then embroiled in what is now a campaign scandal, Fassler said he was never informed about those payments while on the board.
Politico reported late Thursday that one of Cain’s accusers, then a 30-year-old female government-affairs staffer, reported an allegation of sexual harassment to an NRA board member within hours of what she said was an improper sexual overture.
Fassler’s account, however, either questions the accuracy of this account or suggests a communications failure among board members... He [said] he “never heard anything about Herman that would suggest he had those sort of allegations lodged against him. He was a professional. Thoroughly professional.”
Severance agreements, he said, were — and remain — “common” in human resource management. “You offer people severance agreements, unless they are for cause, all the time,” he said.
...Asked why no complaint about Herman Cain ever reached the board, Fassler put the episode in perspective, essentially seeing the amount of money involved as small-potatoes... Fassler drew a clear distinction between legal settlements for significant amounts of money and routine severance packages that would normally be handled far beneath the board’s level of responsibility.
...Fassler’s memories of Cain, he said, were all positive. He called the GOP front-runner a smart businessman, and said that even 15 years ago, the Georgia pizza mogul had a grasp of government policy and routine that was stronger than most of his peers... “Herman, during those days, did a very good job of getting our message heard on the Hill,” Fassler said.
On Friday, the National Restaurant Association itself described the salient details of the complaint:
“We have seen the statement Joel Bennett released earlier today on behalf of his client, a former employee of the Association. The Association consented to the release of that statement, at the request of Mr. Bennett’s client.
“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. Mr. Herman Cain disputed the allegations in the complaint...
...The Association and Mr. Bennett’s client subsequently entered into an agreement to resolve the matter, without any admission of liability. Mr. Cain was not a party to that agreement. The agreement contains mutual confidentiality obligations. Notwithstanding the Association’s ongoing policy of maintaining the privacy of all personnel matters, we have advised Mr. Bennett that we are willing to waive the confidentiality of this matter and permit Mr. Bennett’s client to comment. As indicated in Mr. Bennett’s statement, his client prefers not to be further involved with this matter and we will respect her decision.
So Cain has no idea what the agreement says and, further, the complainant is free to state what happened.
What do we get? Bupkis.
In related news, anonymous sources have revealed exclusively to me that Politico's pro journalists Jonathan Martin and Kenneth Vogel enjoy wearing women's underwear.
Related: Politico's Top Secret Scandal Selector Software