Sharon Bialek, a fifty year old single woman from the Chicago area, accused Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of groping her when she said she met him for dinner to ask for help in finding her job in 1997. Mr. Cain, who was president of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) at the time, is denying these allegations. His campaign sent out a statement following the press conference:
Just as the country finally begins to refocus on our crippling $15 trillion national debt and the unacceptably high unemployment rate, now activist celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred is bringing forth more false accusations against the character of Republican front-runner Herman Cain.
All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are completely false. Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone. Fortunately the American people will not allow Mr. Cain’s bold “9-9-9 Plan”, clear foreign policy vision and plans for energy independence to be overshadowed by these bogus attacks.
Bialek, who identified herself as a Republican, was born and raised in Chicago and spent the majority of her life in the city. From the end of 1996 until her termination in mid 1997, she worked for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) Chicago offices. Bialek says she does not plan on filing any lawsuits against Mr. Cain.
Although the National Restaurant Association has a government relations office in the Washington D.C. area, it’s main headquarters is in Chicago, where the annual show is held and where the state restaurant associations network with another.
Interestingly, the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA), located in Chicago, is headed up by Sheila O’Grady. Ms. O’Grady, who was the chief of staff to former Chicago mayor Richard Daley, was appointed President of the IRA in 2007.
I received a press statement from Ms. O’Grady’s office last week after a blog post of mine on the water cooler regarding a source close to the Cain camp believed Mayor Rahm Emanuel had something to do with the exchange of information regarding sexual harassment charges against Mr. Cain. Mayor Emanuel has denied any involvement.
Below is Ms. O’Grady’s statement:
The Illinois Restaurant Association is an entity independently managed and operated apart from the National Restaurant Association. Sheila O’Grady was appointed President of the Illinois Restaurant Association in 2007. She does not have a prior connection to Mr. Cain (whose time at the National Restaurant Association pre-dated her appointment by more than a decade), nor does she have any knowledge of the current allegations stemming from his tenure at the organization. Any reports suggesting otherwise are baseless.
O’Grady served as Mayor Daley’s chief of staff for a number of years until 2007. Daley, no stranger to controversy himself, was recently slapped with a lawsuit last spring by John Brooks, Chicago’s former fire Commissioner. Brooks claimed that Daley threatened to smear him over what Brooks said were false sexual harassment allegations if Brooks did not retire on his own.
I made no mention of O’Grady in any previous blog post. One Chicago radio host, however, did mention her name following my post on Emanuel. Other than that, why is O’Grady speaking up now?