Woman who accused former state Senator Coggs torn over whether complaints should be public

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A woman who accused former state Sen. Spencer Coggs of sexual harassment says she's torn over whether legislative leaders should release sexual misconduct complaints, saying she was scrutinized harshly and Senate human resources officials did almost nothing to help her.

Jana Harris worked as an aide in Cogg's Capitol office from early 2004 until December of 2010, when Coggs fired her after Democrats lost their majority and they were forced to downsize their staffs.

According to documents filed with the state Equal Rights Division, she began complaining to Senate human resources officials about Coggs' behavior in 2009. She accused him of telling her she was showing too much cleavage and that she wasn't black enough. She also said he ogled female joggers from his office window and made a remark about black men's genitalia.

Coggs, who is black, issued a statement this week denying that he has ever harassed or discriminated against Harris or anyone else who has worked for him in 35 years in public office.

Harris said during an interview with The Associated Press that she thought her reports to the Legislature's top two human resources officials would remain in confidence but that they turned around and told Coggs, who retaliated by deciding she should be the staffer that had to go.

She eventually won a $75,000 settlement from the Legislature in 2015, but not before the state Justice Department tried to discredit her by accusing her of cheating on her boyfriend.

"I understand protecting the victims' identity and believe me, after what I've gone through I can truly appreciate that," she said. "But at the same time with everything that's happened it should be called out. It was a different climate then. I was attacked more than I was supported. I did everything the way I was supposed to with a reasonable expectation of some resolution. I did not get it. They drug it out, attacked my character, examined every little part of my life. And I'm not the one accused of doing anything."

Rob Marchant, the Senate's chief clerk at the time of the incidents, said in an email Thursday that Harris' allegations were taken "very seriously" and were forwarded to DOJ.

The Legislature settled her claims for $75,000 in 2015.

Share this article: