A South Florida state senator said sexual harassment claims made by a former legislative aide are nothing more than an attempt to stop her from pursuing a criminal investigation into him.
Sen. Maria Sachs said in an exclusive interview Monday there is no truth to a complaint filed by Matthew Damsky, a former aide, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the complaint, which was first reported by Gossip Extra, Damsky claimed Sachs undressed in front of him on multiple occasions.
Sachs said that never happened, and said she has “categorically denied” every one of his allegations. She went on to say she believes the complaint is an attempt to stop her from pursuing a criminal investigation into the unauthorized use of her personal credit card.
“My belief is that, based on the late date that he filed the EEOC complaint and based on the ludicrous … the ridiculous allegations in the complaint, this was an attempt by him to get me to settle, and to bully me or to frighten me into trying to make me not want to pursue prosecution,” said Sachs. “I have always … been adamant that I will not be bullied into trying to excuse any prosecution or to minimize the process that had already been put into place.”
Sachs said she confronted Damsky in January 2016 after her American Express bill was flagged by another staff member in her legislative office. She said she was shocked by the number of charges and said Damsky was the only person who had the authority and opportunity to use the card.
She said she spoke to him with her Chief of Staff present, and asked Damsky to designate which of the charges were his. She then asked him to sign a statement saying he did not have the authority to make the accusations. Sachs provided FloridaPolitics.com with an affidavit outlining the purchases and signed by Damsky on Jan. 21, 2016.
According to that document, Damsky made more than $50,000 worth of unauthorized purchases using her American Express Platinum card between Aug. 27, 2015, and Oct. 10, 2015. Those purchases included a dozen airline tickets on Delta Air Lines.
Sachs said she sent him back to Palm Beach County that same day, and alerted the Senate’s General Counsel of what she learned. She said she wanted to make sure there weren’t any problems with reports being filed with the state.
According to the Senate’s response to the EEOC complaint, Sachs learned around the same time Damsky had improperly been taking reimbursements out of her interoffice account for travel that hadn’t incurred and hadn’t been authorized. After speaking with Senate legal counsel, Sachs gave Damsky the option to resign his position, which the Senate response said he did on Feb. 5.
“In retaliation for Senator Sachs refusal to accept (Damsky’s) conduct, (he) has filed the subject baseless charge against her alleging gender discrimination and retaliation,” reads the June 9 response. “The charge has no merit and should be dismissed.”
Sachs said there is currently an active investigation into Damsky, and said federal law enforcement authorities interviewed her.
Jonathan Etra, a Miami-attorney, told Gossip Extra that he and his client “stand by the allegations in the EEOC complaint.”
“I think I had said it before on the record, it makes me sad, because an individual betrayed the trust that I place in him and of course the state of Florida placed in him as a steward of taxpayers’ money, and of course my family’s accounts. He betrayed that trust. I find that upsetting, I find it sad, and I hope that at some point we can get through this,” she said. “I am very adamant that I won’t back down. I will not be silenced or bullied into stopping the investigation on what occurred.”