Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) replaced her chief of staff on Tuesday two weeks after one of her longtime top aides resigned after a California newspaper inquired about a $400,000 harassment lawsuit against him.
Harris announced that Rohini Kosoglu, her deputy chief of staff, will replace Nathan Barankin, whom Harris once lauded as her “right hand” and who was her top deputy in the California attorney general’s office.
Larry Wallace, the longtime Harris aide who has known her for 14 years, resigned on December 5 after the Sacramento Bee inquired about a “gender harassment” lawsuit against him. According to reports, Wallace “worked for Harris going back to her days as district attorney in San Francisco” and “then served as director of the Division of Law Enforcement at the California Justice Department under Harris” in 2016. Harris then hired Wallace to be a senior adviser in her Sacramento Senate office.
According to the Bee, Danielle Hartley filed the “gender harassment” lawsuit in December 2016 accusing Wallace of forcing her to crawl on her hands and knees under his desk to change Wallace’s printer’s ink and paper.
Wallace reportedly also ordered Hartley to crawl under his desk in front of male colleagues and Hartley, in her lawsuit, accused the department of retaliating against her and denying her a deserved promotion after she complained about Wallace’s harassment to her supervisor. The lawsuit was eventually settled in May 2017.
Though Harris has said she did not know about Wallace’s misconduct, the Bee reported that Harris’s office knew about the claims months before she left the attorney general’s office to go to the U.S. Senate. The Bee even blasted Harris’s “far-fetched” claim that she had no idea about the harassment lawsuit.
“Harris owes the voters more than just a four word denial on the steps of the U.S. Senate. She should fully explain her relationship with Wallace, and, by extension, her staff and why it insulated her from an issue upon which she has taken a leading national role,” the Bee’s editorial board wrote. “There are only a few possible interpretations here, and they are unpleasant. Wallace wasn’t out on the periphery of Harris’ staff; he was a senior aide she knew for 14 years — hardly a stranger. For Harris to flatly deny any knowledge of this settlement seems, shall we say, far-fetched.”
According to the Bee, Barankin, the outgoing chief of staff, “began working for Harris in 2011 when she was attorney general of California, first as her chief of staff and then as the chief deputy attorney general.” He was her top deputy when Hartley “notified the agency she planned to pursue legal action related to a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint she filed against Harris adviser” Wallace.
The Bee noted that “in his role as Harris’ deputy, Barankin typically would have reviewed the results of internal investigations into discrimination and harassment complaints. He would have determined whether a policy had been violated and what action should have been taken.”
When she hired Barankin to be her Senate chief of staff, Harris said he had been her “trusted adviser” in the attorney general’s office.
“Nathan has been my trusted adviser and right hand for many years in the attorney general’s office,” Harris said in a November 2016 statement. “He is an exceptional lawyer, legislative expert and career public servant.”
Barankin will reportedly be working for Harris’s PAC ahead of a potential presidential run. According to the Bee, Harris’s office claimed that “Barankin’s departure was long planned and unrelated to the revelations about Wallace.”