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Last time I looked, Bill Clinton’s unpaid legal bills exceeded his
net assets by several million dollars. And now, just as our frisky
president is getting ready to pack his bags, Franette McCulloch has seen
to it that he’ll have one more lawsuit to deal with, one more charge of
sexual harassment and one more demand for $1 million on his way out the
door.

It started in the kitchen, says McCulloch, 53, an assistant pastry
chef at the White House, when her former boss, Roland Mesnier, the chief
pastry chef at the White House, retaliated after she rebuffed his
unwanted sexual advances. On top of suing Mesnier for $1 million,
McCulloch is seeking $1 million from Bill Clinton, charging the White
House failed to adequately respond to her complaints.

Clinton, both as president and head of the White House workforce, say
McCulloch’s lawyers, ultimately is responsible for making sure there’s a
clear and ample avenue for reporting sexual harassment and he failed to
do so.

“McCulloch says Mesnier became hostile and rude when she spurned his
advances, ‘screaming’ at her for refusing to have sex, excluding her
from designing desserts and once assigning her to peel eight crates of
kiwi,” reports The Washington Post. “She charges that Clinton, as the
head of the White House, failed to carry out his duty under the 1996
Presidential and Executive Office Accountability Act which directed the
president to establish rules extending civil rights protections to all
employees.”

In other words, the way the law is written — i.e., designed to open
the deepest pockets for trial lawyers, the sugar daddies of the
Democratic Party — it is Bill Clinton’s fault that chef Mesnier stuck
Ms. McCulloch with eight crates of kiwi.

It doesn’t matter, in short, if Clinton was jetting off to Bosnia,
Ireland and Syria, staying up night and day trying to undo centuries of
tribal conflict, he still “should have known” what was going on behind
the pantry door.

McCulloch’s pastry duties at the White House began in 1983 and, she
says, Mesnier didn’t do anything wrong for the first eight years. She
claims the “severe sexual harassment” began in 1991 and lasted until she
went on unpaid leave in June 1999, diagnosed with “stress-related
depression.” Saying she can’t explain the timing, she says only, “I know
he separated from his wife.”

Now, with McCulloch’s one-year unpaid leave ended, she says her
savings are depleted and that she’s suing for back pay for the year
she’s been on leave, and to be allowed to return to her job, but under a
different supervisor, and for $2 million from Mesnier and Clinton.

Displaying photographs for the press of herself serving elaborate
birthday cakes to former first ladies Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan as
well as of a smiling Hillary Rodham Clinton next to her gingerbread
White House creation, McCulloch says she found being removed from her
duties “very demoralizing.”

Looking at the thousands of new pages of rules and regulations that
are published each year in the Federal Register, a lot of us have been
saying for years that no one can know all the rules, that any one of us
can be charged at any time with illegal behavior under some petty and
buried edict within the plethora of government red tape and regulations.
Bill Clinton’s lawyers, responding to McCulloch’s lawsuit, are now
saying the same thing.

“White House lawyers are saying they had no knowledge of the 1996
Presidential and Executive Office Accountability Act,” says Joseph
Yablonski, one of McCulloch’s lawyers. “The White House has remained
frozen in the headlights. I’m not only surprised. I’m shocked. It’s
bizarre. Who’s in charge?”

If Bill Clinton thinks back, he might recall that this isn’t the
first time in court for McCulloch and Mesnier. “The last time, the two
were testifying on the same side against another chef, Sean T. Haddon,
who had charged that he was denied a promotion because he was dating a
black woman,” reports the Post. “In that case, brought in 1993 before
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, McCulloch testified that
Haddon couldn’t make a crab cake and once served George and Barbara Bush
orange Jell-O pie that embarrassed the pastry shop. McCulloch and
Mesnier also told an FBI agent that Haddon had made death threats
against them, though never directly.”

As it turned out, after four years and a large pile of tax dollars,
the EEOC, although saying Haddon’s firing had been legal, ruled that the
White House had “retaliated” against Haddon for filing the EEOC
complaint by, as Post reported, “yanking his security pass for a day and
interrogating him on false charges of trying to poison the first family
and kill his kitchen colleagues.”

With the McCulloch case, as with the Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick,
Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey and Monica Lewinsky cases, the real
irony is that it’s Bill Clinton, more than any other president, who
pushed to have disputes over sex in the workplace turned into big-ticket
legal items. Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute,
got it exactly right in his “Punch the Clock, Sue the Boss” article a
few years back in the New York Times: “Like so many who have loudly
advocated expanding liability for everyone else, President Clinton
probably never saw the boomerang coming.”




Ralph R. Reiland
is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh.

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