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Pennsylvania

Wagner criticized for campaigning with mayor accused of sexual harassment

Wes Venteicher
| Friday, July 20, 2018, 5:33 p.m.

The state Democratic Party is criticizing Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner for a campaign appearance last week with former Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis, who has been accused in two lawsuits of sexual harassment.

Wagner appeared in a Facebook Live video with Mavrakis last Saturday when he was in Monessen to talk about economic redevelopment. In the video, Wagner says he and Mavrakis, 80, became “really good friends” after meeting in 2015.

Two women filed lawsuits last year accusing Mavrakis of sexual harassment.

Melissa Luketich, a parking enforcement officer for the city at the time, said he made a sexual suggestion in response to her request for more hours . The city of Monessen, under new Mayor Matt Shorraw, settled the lawsuit last month.

Rebekah Shrader, a Monessen patrol officer, said in a lawsuit Mavrakis repeatedly attempted to hug and kiss her against her wishes. Mavrakis denies harassing either woman, saying their allegations were politically motivated.

“Scott Wagner’s friendship with a serial sexual harasser is part of his pattern of not standing up to sexual harassers despite claiming to have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy,” Democratic Party spokesman Mike Mikus said in an emailed statement Friday.

Mikus criticized Wagner for not calling on U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Delaware County, to resign after reports that Meehan made unwanted advances on an aide and then settled harassment claims with taxpayer money.

Wagner at the time said Meehan should repay the settlement money and said that if the allegations were true Meehan shouldn’t seek re-election.

Mikus said Wagner also refused to call on state Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-Delaware County, to resign after he was accused of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“These profound errors in judgment prove that Scott Wagner does not have the character to be governor,” Mikus said in the statement.

Wagner said in a March 1 Republican primary debate that he wouldn’t call on Miccarelli to resign, but told PennLive’s editorial board in April that Miccarelli should resign, saying he came to that conclusion after a judge sided with one of Miccarelli’s accusers, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne County, by granting her a protection-from-abuse order against Miccarelli.

“Scott takes all forms of sexual harassment seriously. He was the only Republican candidate in the primary to call for Rep. Miccarelli to resign,” Wagner spokesman Andrew Romeo said in an emailed statement Friday. “Scott filmed the video to illustrate to the people of Pennsylvania that he will be a governor who engages local leaders, Republican or Democrat, because they know best about what their cities need from Harrisburg in order to be turned around.”

Romeo accused Wolf of not taking sexual harassment seriously because of Wolf’s appointment of Tim Solobay, a former state senator from Washington County, as fire commissioner in 2015. Rachel Moore, a former staffer in Solobay’s office, filed a complaint in 2011 alleging Solobay had slapped her in the rear.

PennLive reported that Mary Isenhour, who was a member of Wolf’s campaign team, knew of the allegation and encouraged Moore to report the incident.

Romeo wrote that Wolf appointed Solobay “despite the fact that one of his highest-ranking staffers knew of the former fire commissioner’s misdeeds prior to when the Governor named him to the post.”

Solobay resigned after the allegations resurfaced at the end of last year. A Wolf spokesman at the time declined to discuss details of the personnel matter.

Mikus said Friday that “Governor Tom Wolf had no knowledge of Solobay’s prior allegations. Once he learned about them, he asked him to resign.”

Wolf also asked former Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen to resign in February after Groen declined to call for Meehan’s resignation in an interview.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wes at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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