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Ex-colleague says Md. delegate engaged in inappropriate ‘touching’

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Del. Charles E. Barkley, D-Montgomery County

ANNAPOLIS — A former state lawmaker is publicly accusing a sitting member of the House of Delegates of “touching younger women in uncomfortable ways.”

Former Del Saqib Ali, D-Montgomery, made the allegations against Del. Charles E. Barkley, D-Montgomery, in a public Facebook discussion about sexual harassment policies in the Maryland General Assembly.

Barkley, in an interview Thursday, said he was disgusted by Ali’s comments and strongly denied the claims.

Barkley may be the first Maryland lawmaker to be publicly accused of inappropriate behavior at a time when such accusations are becoming more common in the wake of the national sexual harassment movement known as #MeToo.

No member of the General Assembly or legislative employees have stepped forward to back Ali’s claims, and some of his colleagues Thursday rallied to his defense.

In his comments, Ali noted what he said was the value of public shaming.

“Everyone knows my former colleague Delegate Charles Barkley is one of the biggest creeps,” Ali said in a post, who did not respond to requests for additional comment. “He has a reputation for touching younger women in uncomfortable ways like rubbing their shoulders, etc. He is known as “Groper in Chief”. Why should anyone in the caucus cover for him? Talk about it openly. This code of silence provides the perverts impunity. How is he gonna retaliate if all the legislature’s women come after him? He can’t.”

“Dragging these peoples’ deeds out into the open is what brought down Harvey Weinstein. There was no formal investigation system for him either. But public disgust is a powerful force.”

Some members of the legislature said privately that Ali made the statements as part of a continuing political vendetta that stretches back nearly a decade. Barkley supported Sen. Nancy King in her bid for the Senate over Ali, who once shared a ticket with the two lawmakers.

“He’s probably upset that I didn’t support him. That’s the only thing I can think of,” Barkley said.

Barkley, 67 and a member of the House of Delegates since 1999, is finishing his final year in the legislature and has filed to run for Montgomery County Council.

“Nobody else has said anything like that,” Barkley said of Ali’s comments. “You can go up and talk to my staff. My aide, Rebecca, she’s been with me 20 years, which is unusual to keep someone like that, so I don’t know where it’s coming from. I was disgusted when I read it, and I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

Barkley noted that he has served as chair of the county delegation and has a subcommittee chairmanship.

“If I was doing stuff, I don’t think I’d have gotten any of those,” said Barkley. “I try to go out of my way to make sure people are not uncomfortable with me, and if I did something I shouldn’t of, I’m sorry about it, but I don’t know of anything.”

Other legislators backed Barkley.

“I’ve known Delegate Barkley since before I was elected,” said Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Dumais described Barkley as “thoughtful and helpful” when she ran for office.

“He’s not the ‘groper in chief,'” said Dumais. “I do think that there are those who have suggested the occasional touch, you know on the arm or back, if you don’t like it then you should say so, and I do believe that he, many people have told him he really shouldn’t be doing that. Again, he’s a strong delegate. He’s done a lot of really good work.”

Dumais suggested that there is room for misinterpretation of an action that is meant to be a kind gesture.

“We’ve made life kind of hard because I think people hesitate to do things that they would find to be just trying to show support, but we are in a time where if you don’t like the touch or the comment or the action then say so,” Dumais said.

 

 

 

 


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