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Seven female Democratic activists say they witnessed numerous instances of sexual misconduct by Rob Miller a candidate for Utah Democratic chairman and the party's former vice chairman and treasurer.
Miller denies any wrongdoing and says the allegations are a false, last-minute political attack before the June 17 Democratic state convention by women who want to elect a female party boss. Nine people are running for the post, including four women.
The seven women sent a letter to state Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon, dated May 25, alleging that Miller kissed and hugged women without consent, stroked their hair without permission, pulled down his pants to show Mormon undergarments and turned one supposed job interview into a request to date him instead.
They said when Miller heard that some women were considering airing those allegations, he threatened legal action.
"Such conduct is unbecoming of party leadership, and inappropriate for any person who seeks a position of power over others," they wrote. "It also raises the [specter] of potential future sexual harassment claims if such conduct continues."
The letter was signed by Mary Brady-Bishop (former Salt Lake County Democratic chairwoman); Celina Milner (former Utah Senate candidate); Elizabeth Converse (communications director for Utah House Democrats); former national delegates Sheryl Ginsberg and Ellen Brady; Jennifer Miller-Smith (self-described party supervolunteer); and Jill Haring (a Republican married to a Democratic blogger).
The person who provided a copy of the letter to The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that on "the advice of their lawyer, the individuals who have signed the letter will not be making any further comment, but allowing the letter and its content to speak for itself." Miller said he had heard about the letter, but had not seen it until given a copy by the newspaper.
"There's not any merit to it. There is no sexual harassment," Miller said in an interview, adding that opponents are spreading even worse allegations about him including that he is a sexual predator which he says are also false.
Miller said he also had complained to Corroon and party leaders about the whispering campaign against him, and was told the party is looking at re-establishing a judiciary committee to look into the situation.
Corroon said in a text message, "Democrats are fully committed to providing a safe environment for all. Pursuant to our rules, when complaints are received, they are forwarded to our judicial standing committee."
"This is the dirtiest politics I have ever seen in the party," Miller said. He added that most of the women who signed the letter are supporters of Nadia Bowman, another candidate for the party leadership post. "I had been warned time and again she plays dirty politics."
Bowman said, "I have absolutely nothing to do with this" letter by the seven women. "I was as surprised as everyone else."
She said some of the letter writers have endorsed her candidacy but have not worked on her campaign.
Also, she said, "I do not engage in dirty politics."
The letter listed eight specific instances of alleged sexual misconduct that the women said they witnessed, including:
• Miller met a woman to discuss a job opportunity, but she found no work existed. Miller instead asked her to date him. "He told her he was rich and would take care of her the rest of her life. The woman was very disturbed and distressed," the letter said.
Miller said he met with Converse about the possible sale of a website when both were single, and added he "wouldn't mind dating her," but said he did not say what is alleged.
• Miller walked toward a group including one of the signers in the basement of Democratic headquarters with "his pants pulled down to his knees with his garments in full view. He laughingly stated something about his garments."
Miller said the closest he can remember to anything like that was when he was working in storage areas, had loose-fitting clothes because he lost weight, and his pants momentarily dropped down. "I was embarrassed."
• At a separate party event, the letter said, "Miller pulled the waistband of his pants down and showed his garments to one woman, and on another occasion he grabbed her buttocks without permission."
• At an immigration rally, "Miller hugged a woman very tightly in an unwelcome manner and without permission." The letter said the same woman at another event had Miller drape his hand over her breast as he talked about "how important it is to hit the right buttons."
Miller said the woman he believes is making the complaint initiated a welcome hug with him at the rally, and he returned the hug as his daughter was watching. He said it was not tight, but a friendship hug.
• "Miller kissed two women on the lips without their consent," the letter said.
• "Miller stroked and 'petted' the hair of one of the signers without her consent," it said.
• Miller told a woman in Democratic offices, "You are so sexy," while the letter said, "It was clear such a comment was not welcome or appropriate."
• "Miller appeared to be harassing a female volunteer at a campaign office and was told to stop by one of the signees," the letter said.
Again, Miller denies any wrongdoing. He says the allegations are coming from political foes because he has been doing well in his campaign and is viewed by some as the front-runner in the crowded field.
"Plenty of women I have worked with in the past will say that is not truth, not my character," he said. He adds he believes that women he dated when he was single would also say he treated them well and appropriately.
"I put my heart and soul into this party," he said. "I'm not running because I want a job. I'm running because I want to do the job."
He says opponents waited "until the very end to throw doubt because I have been doing well. Even if I somehow prove this is not true in the next two weeks which is difficult because it's 'he said, she said' this will affect the race."
The other seven candidates for party chairman are: Leonardo Gutierrez, Neil Hansen, Ed Schwartz, Sarah Scott, Daisy Thomas, Julianne Waters and Archie Williams.