October 17, 2010 in City

Woman blasts campaign ad that cites her lawsuit

Anti-Marr commercial paid for by independent group
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Spokane ad funded by West Side money

Spokane Families for Change was created this month and raised all its money outside of Spokane – from an $80,000 donation from a Kirkland, Wash.-based fund called Working Families for Change.

The woman whose sexual harassment lawsuit was highlighted in a recent campaign commercial against state Sen. Chris Marr demanded Saturday that the ad be pulled from TV.

In a hand-written letter released by the Marr campaign, Dawn Fowler said she was outraged when she saw the ad.

“I want voters to know (Marr) was a good and responsible boss,” Fowler said in the letter. “I have never contended that he was guilty of sexual harassment, as the ad claims. My issue was with co-workers and others at Foothills Auto, not Chris Marr.”

Marr is a Democrat in the midst of a heated re-election race with Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner.

In a brief interview Saturday, Fowler said that she reached out to Marr after seeing the ad and that all the words in the letter are hers.

“The families involved have worked to put this troubled issue behind us and move forward,” she wrote. “It’s too bad Chris’ opponents can’t just focus on real issues rather than bring up things to hurt other people.”

Fowler filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2005 against Foothills Automall, naming Marr and several other Foothills employees. Marr was a co-owner of the dealership at the time.

The dealership agreed to settle the case in late 2005 for $75,000. Marr said the case was quickly settled because most of the allegations related to an employee who was dying of cancer. He has since died.

The commercial, which began running last week, was financed by a group called Spokane Families for Change.

But according to the state Public Disclosure Commission, Spokane Families for Change was created this month and raised all its money outside of Spokane – from an $80,000 donation from a Kirkland, Wash.-based fund called Working Families for Change.

The Kirkland group has raised $200,000 – all from the Leadership Council, according to the disclosure commission.

The Leadership Council has raised $827,000. Donations of $10,000 or more came from the Republican State Leadership Council, the Washington Health Care Association, the Building Industry Association of Washington, Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, Comcast, Premera Blue Cross and MillerCoors.

Only four individuals with Spokane addresses are listed as contributors to the Leadership Council. They each gave $500: John Condon, Terrill Hunt, David Moore and Larry Moran.

The lawsuit featured in the ad popped up in Marr’s first run for office in 2006.

The 2005 lawsuit claimed Fowler was subjected to frequent harassment and discrimination by co-workers while selling cars at the dealership from 1997 until 2005. At the time, Marr was part-owner, vice president and, later, president of the dealership.

Most of the lawsuit detailed allegations against the man who has since died, but it also said Marr “frequently asked female employees if they ‘enjoy sex.’ ”

Fowler said Saturday, however, that she knows of no instance when Marr talked to her or other employees about sex.

“That did not come from me,” she said. Marr “did not ever ask me anything about my sex life.”

Marr said the commercial “drags innocent people” into the limelight and he urged Baumgartner to renounce the ad.

Baumgartner said Saturday afternoon that he knew nothing about the ad until it started to air.

“I can’t really comment on an ad that I’m not responsible for,” he said.


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