LOS ANGELES – A California Democratic Party employee can proceed with his sexual assault and harassment allegations against former Los Angeles County and state party chairman Eric Bauman, who resigned in 2018 amid misconduct allegations, a judge ruled Thursday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Doyle rejected claims by Bauman that the case brought by William Floyd on April 24 should be dismissed on free-speech grounds.
“Bauman’s arguments are without merit,” the judge wrote.
Doyle also concluded that the motion was frivolous and awarded Floyd $10,625 in attorneys fees.
The lawsuit also names both the state and Los Angeles County Democratic parties. Those defendants were not part of Thursday’s motion.
Floyd alleges that Bauman forced him to submit to oral sex on three occasions, repeatedly groped him and made sexually inappropriate comments to and about Floyd during his employment with the county and state Democratic parties.
Floyd, a 27-year-old gay man, began working with the county Democratic Party in 2015 as an assistant to Bauman, and he was subsequently hired by the state party when Bauman became chairman of the California Democrats, according to his attorneys.
The lawsuit claims that in addition to forcibly performing oral sex on Floyd on three occasions, Bauman also committed harassing acts such as fondling Floyd’s genital and thigh areas and making suggestive comments about Floyd’s appearance.
Bauman’s lawyers maintained in their court papers that the Floyd complaint targeted their client’s political speech.
“Notably, Floyd also admits early on in his complaint that any actions purportedly taken by Mr. Bauman were done while acting within the course and scope of his authority as the head of a political organization, i.e., while Mr. Bauman was engaging in protected political activity,” Bauman’s lawyers state in their court papers.
Bauman’s attorney, Dan M. Forman, also urged the judge to find that the motion was not frivolous and decline to award attorneys’ fees.
But Floyd’s attorney, Scott R. Ames, told the judge that sexually harassing comments are not protected by the First Amendment. He said the award of attorneys’ fees was proper.
In an earlier statement, Floyd maintained that party leaders ignored Bauman’s drinking and his “vicious” attacks on people.
“Most of us lived in fear of him,” Floyd said. “A few people cared, but their voices were drowned out by so many others who didn’t want to cross Eric or do anything to stop him. No one from the party has even apologized to me for what happened.”
Bauman initially took a leave of absence from the party last year amid an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, but he opted to resign in November 2018.
“I have made the realization that in order for those to whom I may have caused pain and who need to heal, for my own health, and in the best interest of the party that I love and to which I have dedicated myself for more than 25 years, it is in everyone’s best interest for me to resign my position as chair of the California Democratic Party,” Bauman said in a statement.
Bauman, a gay former registered nurse, was elected chairman of the party in 2017, after a closely contested election against progressive activist Kimberly Ellis.