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Maria Sachs accuser seeks to drop harassment case

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

An ex-aide to former state Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs has asked a federal court to drop his sexual harassment case against the Florida Senate.

Matthew Damsky’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss Tuesday, asking that each side pay for its own attorneys’ fees and costs. The Senate was named as the defendant because it was Damsky’s official employer.

The Senate’s outside counsel, Lisa Fountain of the Sniffen & Spellman firm, told attorney Marie Mattox that the chamber would “consent” to the request. As of Tuesday, the Senate’s cost to defend the case was $9,690.35, according to Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta.

Damsky, then 28, had first sued in Leon County Circuit Civil court last year on gender discrimination and retaliation charges. The 68-year-old Sachs, first elected to the Senate in 2010, declined to run for re-election last year. His case was later moved to federal court in Tallahassee.

He claimed that Sachs “exposed (him) to unwelcome sexual conduct” by frequently undressing in front of him. The Palm Beach County Democrat was known for her frequent wardrobe changes, particularly on long days of the legislative session.

But Mattox also had told the Senate’s lawyers, according to recent court filings, that her client “may dismiss the case due to difficulties with (his) criminal defense lawyer,” referring to “a criminal investigation involving Mr. Damsky.” Sachs had filed a criminal complaint into the unauthorized use of her personal credit card.

“The Court has rightly been asked to dismiss this bogus lawsuit against the Florida Senate that was a flimsy smokescreen created by Damsky to distract attention from his thieving criminal acts against Florida taxpayers and my family,” Sachs said in a statement provided to SaintPetersblog.

“Nothing will eclipse the truth about those illegal acts as he faces justice, accountability, and deserved consequences.”

Damsky was let go in February 2016 when he objected to Sachs’s demands of doing her “grocery shopping, walking her dog, maintaining her relatives’ homes, and traveling cross country to assist” them, his suit says.

He says he also was “ordered” to perform work for her legal practice on Senate time, including “drafting legal pleadings,” according to his original complaint.

A complaint in a lawsuit tells one side of a story. The Senate has denied liability, citing sovereign immunity, the doctrine of “unclean hands,” and other defenses.

Sachs previously “categorically denied” all of his allegations, telling Florida Politics last July she believed the lawsuit was an attempt to short circuit a criminal investigation. She said Damsky admitted to charging nearly $50,000 in plane tickets on her credit card without her knowledge, among other things.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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