With a little more than a week to go before Election Day, the Maine Democratic Party has asked its nominee for district attorney in Cumberland County to withdraw from the race over allegations of sexual misconduct with colleagues at a previous workplace.
Party chairman Phil Bartlett said he asked Jon Gale, a criminal defense attorney running against independent Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck, over the weekend to immediately withdraw his candidacy.
Three people who worked at Unum with Gale told the Bangor Daily News that he left the company in 2004 amid a human resources investigation into sexual misconduct with multiple female colleagues. They asked not to be named because they did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive company matter in public and to protect the privacy of their families.
Bartlett said Monday that he had also heard concerns from people who worked with Gale at Unum, including “a victim who reported some very troubling allegations.”
In an interview, Gale, who is 51 and married with two adult children, said he was not withdrawing from the race and that he “did nothing wrong to anybody at Unum.”
“I left under my own accord,” Gale said Monday. “I left for reasons not related at all to a human resources investigation.”
Asked repeatedly whether there was an investigation into his conduct at Unum, Gale did not deny it. “I am not commenting on anything to do with human resources or anything to do with anyone at Unum,” he said.
The allegations disrupt what has otherwise been a staid race to replace longtime District Attorney Stephanie Anderson in Maine’s busiest prosecutorial district .They have Gale’s own party calling for a deeper investigation into his alleged behavior more than a decade ago.
“The allegations that have been raised are very serious and call into question his fitness for this particular role as district attorney,” Bartlett said. “At a minimum, they warrant further investigation.”
Two of the people who said Unum was investigating Gale said they are registered Democrats, and one claimed to be an independent. All three were interviewed over the past week, and one spoke to a reporter Monday.
Several Unum employees, including the woman who was Gale’s boss, declined to comment for this story, saying that questions should be directed to the company.
A spokesman for Unum, which is publicly traded and has a large campus in Portland, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Another current and a former employee of the company said that Gale was well regarded during his more than four years at Unum and that they continue to hold him in high esteem.
Bartlett said that he’s making the party’s position on the race between an independent and a Democrat clear by asking their candidate to drop out.
Gale was left in a two-way race with Sahrbeck in September, when the Republican nominee, Randall Bates, withdrew after raising far less money than his opponents in heavily Democratic Cumberland County.
Sahrbeck, 39, called the Democrats’ concerns with Gale’s “fitness” and request for an investigation “significant.”
“We need to ensure that the voters have enough information to make a fully informed decision on November 6th,” he said.
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