Mayor-President Kip Holden on Thursday denied accusations contained in a 2011 Kansas City lawsuit that he sexually harassed a woman in town on business, noting that his own wife was present for some events where the alleged activity took place.
“I have lived my entire adult life in the political arena and understand these types of things occur, as they are occurring now in a political race in Kansas City involving one of the parties. Fortunately, both my wife and I know the truth on this one,” he said in a prepared statement.
The statement did not address the specific acts of sexual harassment that the woman, Cynthia Sloan, alleged in the court filings, including groping her at a dinner meeting, texting her with inappropriate messages and making other sexual advances.
Sloan, a businesswoman from Kansas City, said the incidents occurred when she was in Baton Rouge in 2010 trying to secure work from the city-parish for her company. The accusations were outlined in a lawsuit she filed in 2011 against her company, Tetra Tech, an engineering and consulting firm, and the woman who was her boss at the time. She says she was forced to endure sexual harassment from potential clients in order to obtain business for the company.
Holden was not a defendant in the suit, but a complaint about the sexual harassment filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights was included as an exhibit in the court filing. It details four occasions in 2010 in which Sloan claims Holden touched her or communicated to her in a sexually inappropriate way. The lawsuit was settled in 2012.
Holden’s statement acknowledges only two interactions with Sloan and says nothing inappropriate happened on either occasion.
“My recollection of the visit to Baton Rouge by several staff members of Tetra Tech is that we met as a group. My wife and I took one of the women to dinner and to my birthday party as our guest,” he said in the statement. “When the two women at Tetra Tech had their employment dispute, I was contacted by the company, and I assured them that anything more than that did not occur.”
Sloan wrote in her complaint that she first met Holden in Washington, D.C., in March 2010, where he made advances toward her. She said they attended a conference together in June, when he sent her a note on a napkin, as well as a bracelet and a book.
In July 2010, she said she and others with her company came to Baton Rouge and took the mayor out to dinner, which is when he “touched my leg and between my legs several times. I repeatedly pushed his hand away.”
Sloan also talked about another dinner in July when she said she was left alone with Holden after her boss, Teresa Loar, canceled at the last minute. She said Holden wrote another note to her asking her to come back to his room.
“I told the Mayor I was not into that,” Sloan said in her complaint. “Later Teresa wanted to know if the Mayor seemed angry that I did not go back to his room.”
She says she later returned to Baton Rouge to attend the mayor’s August birthday party, but the next day Holden showed up at her hotel and persistently requested entrance into her room.
“While he was in my room he stated that he was doing so much for me, he just wanted to see and feel my breasts. I told him no,” she wrote. “We went to lunch. He wrote another note on a napkin.”
In October, the complaint said, Holden also requested that they share a room in New Orleans for a party.
The statement issued by Holden on Thursday didn’t address the specific accusations Sloan made in her complaint. Asked for clarity, Scott Dyer, a mayoral aide, said that “The statement speaks for itself.” He said Holden would not be issuing any additional comments or conducting interviews Thursday about the allegations.
Holden points out in his statement that he was not sued, that the claims are five years old and the lawsuit was “settled by the parties three years ago without my involvement.”
“It is my understanding the woman involved made similar accusations against other public officials who the company met with and both of the women involved in this dispute no longer work for the company,” he said.
In her complaint, Sloan accuses a co-worker, a Kansas City councilman and the vice president of her company of making sexual advances toward her.
Attempts to reach Sloan for comment were unsuccessful. Her attorney, Gene Graham Jr., said he would not comment on cases that have been settled.
The allegations surfaced Wednesday after an alternative weekly in Kansas City wrote about the lawsuit in connection with a local election in which Loar, who was Sloan’s boss, is a candidate.
Sloan made the claims of harassment against Holden and others in a suit that was filed in 2011, long before the political race in Kansas City that led them to surface publicly this week.
Tetra Tech is an engineering and consulting company, based in Pasadena, California, but it has a local office in downtown Baton Rouge. The company does not appear to have contracts or subcontracts with the city-parish. However, its subsidiary group Ardaman & Associates, an environmental engineering firm, has at least worked for the city-parish as a subconsultant on projects related to the sewer improvement program.
This is not the first time allegations of philandering behavior have surfaced in court against Holden, a third-term mayor-president and married father of five.
Most recently, in 2012, the affidavit of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, county sheriff’s deputy was filed in state court in Baton Rouge accusing Holden of malfeasance in office for allegedly spending thousands of dollars of public money on gifts and trips for the deputy’s former fiancée, a court reporter with the 19th Judicial District, and using police officers as escorts to visit her at her home.
“Mayor Holden had given her many thousands of dollars of gifts including iPads, furniture sets, flowers, sunglasses, purses, Saints tickets, concert tickets, LSU tickets, and even a lawn mower,” said Tulsa Sgt. John Randolph Pierce in the affidavit.
However, the Sheriff’s Office said they interviewed Pierce and were never able to substantiate the claims.
The affidavit was filed as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by former Metro Councilman Darrell Glasper, who paid for a flier during the 2008 election campaign that accused Holden of engaging in an extramarital affair. It also portrayed him with a black eye from being beaten up by the husband who caught them in the act.
Glasper filed the suit, saying he was defamed by Holden’s response, calling Glasper corrupt and a liar. Pierce’s affidavit was tossed out as inadmissible hearsay before the lawsuit was dismissed in 2012, with a judge saying Holden had the right to defend himself against the attack ads.
Holden denied both extramarital affairs.
Staff writer Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.
Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.