Ex-Gov. Wilder sues VCU over assistant’s harassment claims

RICHMOND – Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder is suing Virginia Commonwealth University and its government school, which bears his name, claiming his administrative assistant was the subject of verbal harassment.

The complaint was filed in Richmond’s Circuit Court on Monday. It asserts that the dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, John Accordino, verbally assaulted and abused Angelica Bega, Wilder’s administrative assistant, last November.

Accordino called Bega “obscene names,” threatened to fire her, accused her of violating human resources rules and “questioned and insulted her intelligence,” according to the complaint.

The complaint says VCU President Michael Rao refused to properly address Accordino’s actions. It says the university’s vice president and provost, Gail Hackett, conducted a “farcical and corrupt investigation” after Wilder met with her and Rao to notify them about Bega’s allegations. Rao and Hackett are both named as defendants.

When Wilder met with Rao, Hackett and Kevin Allison, Rao’s senior assistant, Hackett assured everyone present that Bega did not want to report Accordino to the university, according to the court document. However, the lawsuit says, Bega later denied to Wilder she had ever told Hackett that and stated “unequivocally” that she wanted to move forward with a complaint to the university.

“Upon being confronted with Ms. Bega’s statement, it was conceded Ms. Bega had never stated that she did not wish for her complaint to move forward,” the court document says.

The lawsuit says Wilder told Rao and Hackett that the provost’s office was “compromised and unable to faithfully process” Bega’s complaint. Wilder then reported Accordino’s actions to VCU’s Office of Human Resources as sexual harassment and racial and sexual discrimination.

The suit says Wilder, who holds the rank of distinguished professor at VCU, was not present when the incident between Accordino and Bega occurred, but Kristine Artello, an assistant professor at the Wilder School, notified Wilder of the incident.

Accordino has been the dean of the Wilder School for one year. Before that, he held the position on an interim basis since July 2016.

A spokesperson for VCU refused to comment but said the university has not been served with a lawsuit.

By Fadel Allassan

Capital News Service