After an earlier plan imploded, the King County Democrats have approved a new process for looking into allegations that that group's chair harassed a former employee and mismanaged finances. A majority of the organization's executive board also supported motions calling on Chair Bailey Stober to resign and scheduling a vote on suspending him. The votes, taken at a Monday night meeting, show waning confidence in Stober.
A former King County Democrats employee says Stober harassed and bullied her and party volunteers. An internal investigation by three party vice chairs founded several allegations, including that Stober called the former employee a "stupid cunt" and "stupid bitch." Party members, including the organization's treasurer, have also accused Stober of mismanaging money and overspending on travel and entertaining. Stober has denied the allegations and said he will not resign.
Stober is now on leave from his day job at the King County Assessor's Office and that office is conducting its own fact-finding. Multiple legislative district groups and the chair of the state party have called for his resignation.
Last month, the executive board of the King County Democrats voted to undertake a new investigation to be conducted by five party members: two appointed by the vice chairs, two by Stober, and a fifth by those four. But that never materialized. Some party leaders refused to participate and denounced allowing an alleged harasser to help select his own investigators.
Last night, the executive board met again to come up with a new plan. They voted to appoint Afton Larsen to investigate the allegations. Larsen is an executive board member who also works in labor negotiations and grievance management at SEIU 1199 NW. (Larsen has agreed to do the work pro bono, according to the motion.) Larsen will report back in two weeks. Then, the organization may conduct a "trial," though members seemed uncertain Monday about exactly what that would entail.
Regardless of that investigation, Stober could be suspended sooner. In a 41-9 vote, the executive board scheduled a vote on suspending Stober for their next meeting on March 27. Party members could permanently remove him at a later, larger meeting involving party precinct committee officers to be held by April 22. That possible suspension and removal would be based on the financial allegations, not the allegations of harassment. Separately, a majority of the group also voted in favor of a motion calling on Stober to resign. That motion passed 38-13.
During debate over the proposal to appoint Larsen, Stober said he supported appointing Larsen but also proposed expanding from one person to three. He proposed adding two executive board members to do the investigation. Shasti Conrad, state committeewoman for the 37th Legislative District Democrats, spoke against that proposal because of the failure of the last plan. "It didn’t work to leave it to this executive board," Conrad said. "It is time to call in the professionals." (Stober's proposal failed.)
During the meeting, Stober also made several efforts to make a statement to the group. Those motions failed. Some party members say Stober has already had sufficient opportunity to comment in past meetings and to the media. Stober said he has been denied "due process."
"I believe in justice even when it is inconvenient to my personal end goal and I implore this body to do the same," Stober said.
Several other executive board members spoke in favor of the motion calling for his resignation. Galaxy Marshall, sergeant-at-arms for the King County Democrats and a member of the 43rd Legislative District Democrats, said the group is "stuck" as this debate drags on. She also pushed back against Stober's claim that he can't sexually harass women because he's gay. "I'm a lesbian. I’m harassed by gay men a lot. It’s a dangerous thing to say that can’t happen," Marshall said.
Conrad said Stober created a "hostile work environment." She told party members, "we have to be better than this... This is bigger than just one person. Wrong is wrong. Time’s up.”