New allegations against SBOE

RALEIGH It's been a rough few months at the State Board of Elections with allegations that include a whitewashed investigation into the governor, tax dollars spent unnecessarily by the board's chairman, and a cozy relationship with a state vendor.

Now there is another allegation that the agency's executive director knew about complaints of sexual harassment and did nothing about it, because the accused employee was his friend.

The allegation is that a former employee at the board, Ralph Gable, sexually harassed multiple women at the agency and that Executive Director Gary Bartlett not only sat on the first accusation because he was Gable's friend, but promoted him to business officer, which actually put Gable in charge of enforcing sexual harassment laws.

On Tuesday, state Republican Party Chair Tom Fetzer jumped at the chance to again hammer the Board of Elections and again call for resignations.

"The very idea of allowing this serial sexual harasser to stay in the office for months and months and months after they received complaints and then to even promote him one time is just inexcusable," Fetzer said.

Gable was one of four board employees from Bartlett's hometown of Goldsboro who he hired and would carpool with --a close group some dubbed "The Goldsboro Mafia."

ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team sources confirm Gable's friendship with Bartlett was one reason women at the board were initially afraid to complain about Gable's behavior, but four women eventually filed affidavits against him.

They alleged that Gable would make overt sexual comments and use pet names for women, frequently referring to one with a derogatory reference to her weight.

Gable was later fired in July, seven months after the first complaint.

When ABC11 spoke with Gable on Tuesday, he admitted using some of the terms, but said its part of the culture at the State Board of Elections.

"Sure, I probably said it, but never would I say it to the individual," Gable said. "Probably the second day I went into the employ of the board of elections, those things were terms I heard in reference to certain individuals."

Gable says he's the victim, singled out in what was group behavior. He has filed a wrongful termination suit with the state and was not able to say any more, because he didn't want to jeopardize that.

Bartlett also says he can't talk about the situation, because of a possible lawsuit.

ABC11 asked the governor about it Tuesday, but she said she was on vacation last week and wanted more information before commenting.

"I have had confidence in the entire Board of Elections," she said. "I am reading the same articles that you're reading. I actually am reading the same stories that you are. I haven't been able to get to the bottom of what the "it" is, that's what I'm trying to do now."

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