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Herman Cain accuser may offer story in statement

November 03, 2011|By Tom Hamburger | Washington Bureau
  • Presidential candidate Herman Cain is surrounded by reporters and cameras as he makes his way through a House office building Wednesday.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain is surrounded by reporters and cameras… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )

The lawyer for one of the women who has accused Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of inappropriate conduct in the 1990s said Thursday morning that he has drafted a statement on behalf of his client and is sending it to the National Restaurant Assn. for review in hopes it can be released publicly.

The attorney, Joel Bennett, has said his client would like to tell her version of what happened with Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO, in the 1990s, when the two worked together at the association, but a confidentiality agreement his client signed at the time prohibits her from proceeding.

He said his client is also concerned about appearing publicly to discuss the case, because she has a career to pursue and does not wish to be at the center of a media frenzy. As a result, he said, he has drafted a prepared statement but must wait for the association to respond.

"I will be e-mailing a draft public statement to the National Restaurant Association's attorney this morning," Bennett said in an email to the Los Angeles Times Thursday morning."I will be asking the association to allow us to release the public statement without violating the confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions of the 1999 settlement agreement."

Bennett said he would not provide any further details until he hears back from the association.

Bennett's client is one of three female employees who reportedly took issue with Cain's behavior during the years he acted as CEO of the association, which lobbies for the industry in Washington.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that a female employee at that time was made uncomfortable by Cain's behavior toward her -which she said included an invitation to his corporate apartment. That woman said she considered filing a complaint but did not do so. Two women did complain, including Bennett's client, and received some form of compensation.

Cain has denied wrongdoing and suggested that the emergence of these allegations is the result of leaks by the campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, his rival for the GOP presidential nomination.

A report from an Oklahoma radio station Wednesday fueled that speculation. A Republican consultant who has done work for Perry talked about harassment complaints against Cain by one woman. "At the time, she was a very low-level staffer, maybe two years out of college," Chris Wilson said on KTOK's "Mullins in the Morning" show. "This all occurred at a restaurant in Crystal City [Va.], and everybody was very aware of it."

Wilson's firm has conducted polling for Make Us Great Again, a "super PAC" supporting Perry.

If his negotiations proceed, Bennett will likely deal at least in part with the same restaurant association counsel, Peter Kilgore, with whom he negotiated in the 1990s when Cain was the CEO of the group. The association has also retained outside counsel, Paul Skelly of the Hogan Lovells law firm, in the matter. The firm's website lists Skelly as chief of the labor and employment division at the firm.

In conference calls, the association's leadership has discussed the need to get approval from the group's board members before releasing anything in connection with the matter.

And that could take a while: There are 95 board members scattered across the country.

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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