Bill Clinton's unpaid legal bills now exceed his net assets by several million dollars. And now, just as the 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 Washington 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 The Washington 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."