INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Four women who said Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill inappropriately touched them during a March party have taken the first step in pursuing a lawsuit against him.
The women include Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, a Democrat; Niki DaSilva, a legislative assistant for Indiana Senate Republicans; Gabrielle McLemore, communications director for Indiana Senate Democrats; and Samantha Lozano, a legislative assistant for Indiana House Democrats.
Lozano came forward for the first time in public during a Tuesday news conference. She stood with the other women and their attorneys after Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler announced Hill wouldn’t face criminal charges.
Sigler said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue a criminal case against the attorney general. Hill has denied any wrongdoing.
The women and their attorneys plan to pursue a civil lawsuit alleging defamation and discrimination against the state, Hill and the Attorney General’s Office. All four women said Hill touched them inappropriately during a March 2018 party at an Indianapolis bar celebrating the end of the legislative session.
Their attorneys said the women endured sexual harassment, employment retaliation and assault. They weren’t seeking restitution but were instead hoping to bring attention to the case and bring attention to the issue of harassment.
“Individuals deserve to feel safe at their workplace,” Reardon said. “Hoosiers know what is right. We know that the egregious behavior exhibited by Curtis Hill is wholly unacceptable. We can and should do better.”
“It’s time. My colleagues have been so brave facing denial and accusations against them from Curtis Hill. Today I join them publicly in an effort to enact change. We came forward with our complaints, we cooperated during interviews with our superiors, we have waited patiently as numerous leaders have publicly stated they believe us and trust what happened to us that night. Illegal and improper behavior must be taken seriously and addressed by our laws, no matter the perpetrator’s title,” said Lozano.
“We are standing up for those who come after us that will work alongside elected officials and help keep the State of Indiana running. We are sharing our stories because it is time to break the silence that sexual harassment is just part of the job and that these issues shouldn’t be discussed or that there will be no consequences for those in power. This must change,” said DaSilva.
“We want to be agents of change for the pervasive culture of sexual misconduct that plagues the walls of state government and other offices and workplaces all across Indiana. Victims that come forward with true and credible charges, at great personal cost, cannot be comforted by simply being believed. There must be consequences and an improvement to the status quo,” stated McLemore.
Attorney Kim Jeselskis said the women have served a tort claim notice with the Attorney General’s Office, which is required before pursuing legal action in cases against the state. Potential charges being pursued include assault, battery, defamation and false imprisonment.
They’ve also filed claims of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They claim the state violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against the women because of their gender and retaliating against them. The women said they were threatened with lawsuits and derided as liars after stepping forward. They said they were victims of a hostile workplace.
Reardon said the special prosecutor’s decision doesn’t have much to do with their plans for a lawsuit, since standards for criminal and civil cases are different. DaSilva said she believed the findings of the investigation and special prosecutor supported their civil case.
The women and their attorney hope the lawsuit will send a message that such behavior can’t be tolerated and that there must be consequences when women step forward with credible claims. They would like Hill to step down, although the attorney general says he won’t.