In her first public appearance since an Indiana Daily Student story outlining sexual harassment allegations against her broke, Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge spoke Wednesday morning to deny the allegations.
In a statement she read at the Board of Commissioners meeting, Barge denied ever sexually harassing former county contractor Brandon Drake or holding his livelihood over his head.
Drake alleged Barge repeatedly expressed feelings for him and asked him to date her beginning in 2017. Drake said that after harassing him for months, Barge ultimately played a significant role in dismantling the project he worked on for Monroe County.
“Sadly for all, the article included misinformation and did not tell a complete story,” Barge said Wednesday. “I have been and will continue to provide information to show facts.”
When asked what misinformation was included in the story, Barge wrote in an email that “there are so many claims that are not proveable or just wrong that I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
Before running the story, the IDS approached Barge with specific allegations it outlined, but she declined to address them on the record.
Less than 24 hours after the story's publication, Barge suspended her mayoral campaign.
In Wednesday’s statement, she said she suspended the campaign to take time with her family and “not because I am guilty of these allegations.”
Barge called for protections for all independent contractors — something Drake has also called for — and apologized for what she called “personal decisions I made during a difficult time in my family’s personal life.”
She asked that the community come back together and try to understand each other. At the end of her statement, she said, “It’s important that we get back to business.”
County commissioner Lee Jones also read a statement from the county at Wednesday’s meeting.
This was the second statement the county has released regarding Drake’s allegations. The first statement, released Thursday, detailed Drake’s work history with the county and the health department but did not address his allegations.
Wednesday’s statement said the county did not address the claims in its initial response because Drake never “made any complaint or claim to Monroe County Government regarding sexual harassment.”
The statement went on to focus on the documents published in the IDS article, which were selected from the hours of recorded conversation and hundreds of other instances of communication between himself and Barge that Drake gave the paper.
“The County believes that the selected materials, while personally embarrassing to Commissioner Barge, do not support Mr. Drake’s allegations of harassment and certainly had no bearing on the County’s decision to end its relationship with Mr. Drake,” the statement read.
The statement added that Drake is “free to seek any legal remedy he believes to be available.”
As outlined in the initial article, Drake said an attorney told him federal employee discrimination law did not apply to him because he was an independent contractor and therefore was not offered sexual harassment protections.
Federal law does not protect independent contractors from this kind of workplace behavior, and Monroe County does not have provisions to expand on those laws.
The statement ended with the county asking that anyone with information on harassment or illegality within Monroe County government contact the Monroe County Legal Department.
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