Amanda Barge is currently a Monroe County Commissioner.
Amanda Barge is suspending her campaign to challenge Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton in the Democratic primary following allegations Barge sexually harassed a county contract worker for months.
Allegations published in the Indiana Daily Student Tuesday claim Barge sexually harassed a contractor who was working for the county. The IDS has been working on the story since January after getting a tip.
The article details the allegations from Brandon Drake with copies of emails, text messages, and recorded conversations between the two.
Drake told the IDS that Barge became angry and shut him out professionally when he refused to date her.
"Drake said that after harassing him for months, Barge ultimately played a significant role in dismantling the project he worked on for Monroe County," Caroline Anders writes in the article.
In a statement several hours after publication Tuesday, Barge "vehemently" denies engaging in sexual harassment.
"I recognize that my actions have caused pain to my family and others," the statement says. "I also do not want to distract our community from the very important issues we face. For that reason, I am suspending my campaign, and I wish John Hamilton all the best in his candidacy for mayor."
Barge is currently a Monroe County Commissioner.
Q&A With IDS Editor in Chief
WFIU/WTIU News Bureau Chief Sara Wittmeyer spoke with IDS Editor in Chief Matt Rasnic about reporting the story.
Sara: In your story you interview Brandon Drake who is the one making the allegations. How were he and Barge connected?
Matt: Our reporter Caroline Anders who worked on the story had received contact from Brandon Drake about this. He said that in his position as a county contractor and Barge as one of the commissioners, their paths often crossed between what jobs they were getting done.
Sara: Was Barge ever Drake's suprvisor?
Matt: He was a county contractor and the way the county lawyer described it is that county commissioners oversee county contractors. But they did state that although she may not have been his direct supervisor, there was a power differential.
Sara: What did he describe happened with Barge?
Matt: He did go through with our reporter a few different scenarios that had happened. Whether it was just verbal harassment through text messages or emails or phone calls. He turned over audio recordings and emails as well as hundreds of text messages.
Sara: And what sort of things were in these text messages and in these emails that were being said between Barge and Drake?
Matt: In the messaging he had stated that she approached him about saying that she had emotional relationship intentions with their relationship. And he had expressed at one point that they may be of interest but then slowly backed [away] and said that he did not want to be involved because she was married at that point.
Sara: And he communicated that in these emails?
Sara: And it seems like Drake was a particularly vulnerable person. In your story you talk about abuse he suffered in his life, and his struggle overcoming addiction. It’s worth noting that Barge owns her own counseling office. Was the relationship ever consensual?
Matt: I guess there wasn’t ever much of a relationship as much as the potential for back and forth conversations between the two.
Sara: To see if there was an interest from both parties, but it was her asking those questions?
Sara: Over what period of time did this happen?
Matt: I believe it was on and off for a a little over a year and we were told about it when Mr. Drake came forward and told us in the end of January.
Sara: You have emails, audio recordings and text message between Barge and Drake. What stood out to you from those exchanges?
Matt: I think there was one message in particular where he had asked her, 'Do you see how this could be perceived as harassment — sexual harassment. And she instead of addressing that question she said, 'Is this the road you really want to go down?' So she didn’t necessarily answer that. There was also another recording taken at a time they met at a Steak n' Shake and at the Steak n' Shake you could hear the sound of Adele in the background and they were talking over this conversation and saying how she had drunk texted him and she had eaten a pot gummy and didn’t mean what she had sent in the messages.
Sara: Did she ever talk to him about the possibility that she might run for mayor and how this could come up?
Matt: I believe there was a time she did say she did not plan to run and I do think it’s important to note that Brandon did say that he felt she was a good candidate for running for mayor and this situation is what made the change for him.
Sara: And I want to note that you did reach out to Amanda Barge for an interview- but did she decline?
Matt: Our reporter began reaching out to her yesterday and eventually did have a meeting with her where her campaign and she chose to release a statement to us. So after that the statement was sent to us later in the evening.
Sara: We have also reached out to Amanda barge and received a similar statement.