Deciding to run for Congress was an 'intensely personal decision'

Andrea Ramsey, a Leawood Democrat, decided to run for Congress after joining neighbors at a protest outside U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder's Overland Park office the day Yoder cast a key vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
By
Andrea Ramsey, a Leawood Democrat, decided to run for Congress after joining neighbors at a protest outside U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder's Overland Park office the day Yoder cast a key vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
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Government & Politics

Democrat Andrea Ramsey, accused of sexual harassment, drops out of U.S. House race

December 15, 2017 08:52 AM

WASHINGTON

Democratic congressional candidate Andrea Ramsey will drop out of the race after The Kansas City Star asked her about accusations in a 2005 lawsuit that she sexually harassed and retaliated against a male subordinate who said he had rejected her advances.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the case told The Star that the man reached a settlement with LabOne, the company where Ramsey was executive vice president of human resources. Court documents show that the man, Gary Funkhouser, and LabOne agreed to dismiss the case permanently after mediation in 2006.

Ramsey, a 56-year-old retired business executive from Leawood, was one of the Democratic candidates vying to challenge Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in 2018 in Kansas’ 3rd District.

She was running with the endorsement of Emily’s List, a liberal women’s group that has raised more than a half-million dollars to help female candidates who support abortion rights.

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Ramsey dropped out on Friday, her campaign said.

“In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance standard,” Ramsey said in a statement Friday. “For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.”

The Democratic campaign committee, which has not endorsed anyone in the race, said in a statement that members and candidates must be held to the highest standard.

“If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office,” said committee spokeswoman Meredith Kelly.

Emily’s List said in a statement on Friday that the group supported Ramsey’s decision to drop out of the race and wished her well. The organization removed Ramsey’s photo and endorsement from its website shortly after The Star’s report was published online.

Ramsey was not a party to the lawsuit or the settlement, although she’s referred to throughout the complaint as Andrea Thomas, her name before she married her husband in late 2006. She denied the allegations in two interviews over the last two weeks and said the lawsuit was surfacing now for political purposes.

Ramsey repeatedly said that she was not aware of any settlement in the case, but that if she had been a party to the case she would have opposed settling.

“Had those allegations, those false allegations, been brought against me directly instead of the company, I would have fought to exonerate my name. I never would’ve settled,” Ramsey said in an interview Thursday. “And I would have sued the disgruntled, vindictive employee for defamation.”

Individual supervisors are not named as defendants in federal sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits because they are not considered employers under Title VII, the law that protects employees from discrimination, harassment and retaliation for color, race, sex and national origin.

The lawsuit has been circulating in Kansas political circles as the first-time candidate runs for Congress amid a wave of sexual misconduct allegations that have rocked the political, entertainment and journalism industries.

The national Democratic Party is targeting Kansas’ 3rd District as part of its push to reclaim control of the House. Yoder is one of 23 GOP representatives seeking re-election in districts where Democrat Hillary Clinton won more votes than Republican Donald Trump.

The allegations against Ramsey were outlined in a lawsuit filed by Funkhouser against LabOne and in a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Reached by phone, Funkhouser would not discuss the case.

“All I can say is the matter has been resolved,” he said.

In the EEOC complaint, which alleged sex discrimination and retaliation by LabOne, Funkhouser accused Ramsey of subjecting him to “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments and innuendos” beginning in September 2004, when he was a LabOne human resources manager.

In late March 2005, Ramsey made sexual advances toward him on a business trip, Funkhouser alleged in the complaint.

“After I told her I was not interested in having a sexual relationship with her, she stopped talking to me,” he wrote. “In the office she completely ignored me and avoided having any contact with me.”

Ramsey even moved him out of his office into a cubicle far from her office, Funkhouser wrote.

Before he rejected her advances, Ramsey “repeatedly told me she heard great things from others about my performance,” Funkhouser wrote. “After I rejected her, she told me she now was hearing bad things about my performance and on June 13, 2005, terminated my employment.”

The EEOC closed its file on Funkhouser’s charges of discrimination and retaliation in October 2005, noting that an investigation was unable to conclude whether any statutes had been violated. The document did not certify that LabOne was in compliance with employment law, however, and informed Funkhouser that he had a right to sue the company.

Funkhouser then sued LabOne in federal court.

LabOne denied the allegations and said Funkhouser’s termination was “non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory.”

Ramsey told The Star she made the decision to eliminate Funkhouser’s job in conjunction with LabOne management.

“It became clear to me that he wasn’t managing his subordinates adequately,” she said. “... He didn’t have open lines of communication with his subordinates and furthermore there was this additional layer of management.”

She also said in a second interview that she has no memory of the business trip, noting that 12 years had passed.

The lawsuit was still pending in April 2006 when Ramsey retired from LabOne. At the time, LabOne was being acquired by Quest Diagnostics, a company Ramsey had worked for until 2004. She told The Star she had no interest in working for such a large company again and she wanted to spend more time with her children, who were 8 and 10 at the time.

Later that month, Ramsey took a part-time job as senior counsel for Black & Veatch, an international engineering firm based in Overland Park. She said she did not disclose the lawsuit to Black & Veatch because she was not a party to the case.

In July 2006, LabOne and Funkhouser agreed to dismiss the case without the possibility of bringing it again.

Quest Diagnostics declined to comment on behalf of LabOne, saying its policy is not to comment on litigation.

Shirley Gaufin, who was head of HR at Black & Veatch from 2002 to 2011, described Ramsey as an exceptional colleague. “All I heard was praise,” said Gaufin, who has donated to Ramsey’s campaign.

Ramsey left Black & Veatch in October 2012 after six years as the company’s employment attorney.

She served as board chair at the nonprofit Turner House Children’s Clinic in Wyandotte County from 2015 until she stepped down in May to launch her congressional campaign.

Ramsey said Thursday that she fully anticipated that she would be attacked on her politics if she ran for Congress. But the allegations she faced were more personal than she expected.

“The unsubstantiated, false, spurious allegations brought against me are more personal than I anticipated,” Ramsey said. “But I always knew politics was a rough and dirty sport.”

She was the only women running in the 3rd District race.

The remaining Democratic candidates include Tom Niermann, a high school teacher from Johnson County; Brent Welder, a labor attorney who worked on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign; Chris Haulmark, a deaf rights activist; and Jay Sidie, a Johnson County businessman who was the party’s 2016 nominee and lost to Yoder by double digits.

Ramsey had the money advantage, with more than $370,000 cash on hand, according to her October campaign finance filing. Niermann and Welder each had more than $100,000, according to their FEC reports.

Niermann’s campaign declined to comment on what Ramsey’s exit would mean for his candidacy. Welder’s spokesman did not return a phone call.

The four remaining candidates will appear at a debate Tuesday evening hosted by the Johnson County Young Democrats at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa.

Lindsay Wise: 202-383-6007, @lindsaywise

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3