Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information from the National Restaurant Association and Herman Cain's campaign representative.
The attorney for a former National Restaurant Association staffer seeking to waive an agreement barring her from discussing sexual harassment charges concerning U.S. presidential candidate Herman Cain has been referred to the trade group’s counsel, the NRA said Wednesday.
“Attorney Joel Bennett contacted the National Restaurant Association this morning,” said Sue Hensley, the NRA’s senior vice president of public affairs communications.
“An association representative promptly returned his call and asked Mr. Bennett to contact the association’s outside counsel. Mr. Bennett indicated that he would do so tomorrow, after he met with his client.”
Bennett, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who specializes in employment cases, told the media that his client wants the NRA to waive confidentiality, which would enable her to reply to Cain’s statements claiming that the complaints were “totally baseless and totally false.”
The story broke earlier this week when Politico, a news organization covering national politics, said two female employees of the NRA had claimed that Cain sexually harassed them when he led the Washington, D.C.-based organization in the 1990s. Politico said both employees left the NRA after they received “separation packages that were in the five-figure range.”
Cain has admitted that he had been accused of inappropriate behavior while at the NRA, but said the charges were false.
NRA officials have remained silent on the matter, citing a longstanding policy prohibiting comment about personnel matters related to current or former employees.
When contacted Wednesday by Nation’s Restaurant News, Matt Martini, associate vice president of communications for the Cain campaign, said the candidate had “nothing to add to Mr. Cain’s comments [over] the past several days.”
Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza in Omaha, Neb., was volunteer chairman of the NRA in 1994. He left Godfather’s in 1996 to lead the association full time until 1999.
The National Restaurant Association represents the U.S. foodservice industry, encompassing 960,000 outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees.
Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].