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Women in Nolan scandal defend Radinovich

Joe Radinovich

Three women sourced in an online expose this week detailing workplace sexual harassment in the Washington, D.C. legislative office of Rep. Rick Nolan reached out to the News Tribune on Friday to defend Joe Radinovich.

Radinovich was Nolan's campaign manager at the time and is himself a Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District this election cycle.

The women corroborated what Radinovich told the News Tribune on Thursday — that he acted decisively to terminate senior aide Jim Swiderski upon learning about the alleged harassment.

"Joe Radinovich took immediate action," said Michelle Thimios, Nolan's campaign finance director in 2016.

"Joe is the only senior staffer who had our backs and did the right thing in this whole situation," said one of the victims who was referred to as Rachel in the MinnPost report to protect her identity.

The MinnPost report detailed how Swiderski was recommended to Radinovich by senior legislative aides to work with Nolan's re-election campaign in 2016. This came after Swiderski had already once been allowed to resign and quietly leave the legislative office the previous year following credible reports of groping and preying on younger female staffers with inappropriate comments, electronic messages and unwanted supervisory attention.

Radinovich hired Swiderski, but said he was only later made aware of the reason the longtime Nolan aide had left the legislative office in the first place.

Radinovich said he was relieved to hear women in the MinnPost report agree that he acted correctly and swiftly.

Another protected source referred to as Amanda told the News Tribune, "Joe Radinovich is telling the truth. ... (he) was the only member of Nolan's inner circle who took our allegations seriously."

"Having them corroborate is vindication and means that I took the right action," Radinovich said. "It doesn't make me feel any better about what happened (to the women) in the federal offices."

In separate phone conversations Friday, both Rachel and Amanda explained that Radinovich took a risk by confronting Nolan after learning about Swiderski's alleged predatory history in the legislative office. Swiderski and Nolan's working relationship dated back to Nolan's first go-round in Congress from 1975-81.

Nolan isn't one to like having his instincts questioned, the women said, and for Radinovich to confront Nolan about firing a longtime aide and friend could have gone badly for Radinovich.

"I distinctly remember the immense relief I felt knowing that Radinovich had our backs and was going to stand up for us," Amanda said. "It was a small glimmer of hope during a dark, very demoralizing time."

The MinnPost report said Radinovich informed the Nolan campaign of Swiderski's removal in an email, which in part told fellow staffers to expect to see Swiderski volunteering or "involved in the campaign in other ways."

Radinovich explained he was simply being conciliatory, but that behind the scenes he made sure Swiderski wasn't around. The report notes that after he was fired from the campaign, Swiderski was little seen or heard from again.

After the MinnPost report, Radinovich was attacked by Republican figures in the 8th District. The women now coming to his defense say that isn't right.

"If people are brought into stories and did the right thing, I think that deserves to be told," Rachel said. "I get worried that if they get crucified that scares other people from doing the right thing."

For his part, Radinovich said he was "infuriated" when he read the MinnPost report. The report doesn't necessarily put him in a good light or illustrate the clarity of his response the way the women are doing now.

"No. 1, when women make these allegations people should believe them — I find them to be true," Radinovich said. "No. 2, when allegations come forward people with good conscience have an obligation to act."

Rachel and Amanda have taken divergent paths since their involvement in what is now likely to be a scandal that bleeds deep into the governor's race, if not the 8th District. Amanda is out of politics and working in the nonprofit sector. Rachel carried on with Nolan into 2017.

"But the feeling of being with family was gone," she said, before explaining she later moved on to join the Tim Walz campaign for Minnesota governor.

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