Relations between Jackson County State Senator PaulLeVota and his Chief of Staff Ron Berry were strained in the week’s leading up to Berry’s firing late Friday afternoon, according to sources.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports LeVota fired Berry via e-mail Friday afternoon. Less than two hours later, LeVota announced his own resignation.
LeVota says he resigned because the allegations of sexually harassing female interns, including University of central Missouri student Alissa Hembree, who worked for him were distracting him from his job.
LeVota maintains he did nothing wrong.
A report from the student’s school, the University of Central Missouri, stated the “preponderance of the evidence supports that the Senator engaged in unwelcome sexual advances and made unwelcome sexual comments directed against Ms. Hembree”
Sources say LeVota believes Berry mishandled the of case of former intern..
A Senate report on the incident says Hemrbee went to Berry a week after LeVota made unwanted sexual advances toward her in late January, 2015.
The report says Hembree told Berry she wanted to keep the incident “off the record”.
The sources say LeVota did not think Berry had had that option of keeping the charges confidential. LeVota believed Berry was boundas a Senate employee to report what he was told to Senate authorities, according to the Senate’s policy against harassment on the job..
The senate report, described Berry as, “the primary contact for student interns in LeVota’s office”
But sources say Berry did not feel he had a supervisory roles, despite the Chief of staff title.Some think Berry felt cut off from the office, especially in the final days.
A source close to Sen. LeVota said the senator had lost confidence in Berry because Berry differed with LeVota in public over policy issues.
Normally a Chief of Staff is considered a lawmaker’s most trusted advisor.