- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A former Northern California business executive and his companies will pay $1.8 million to settle a lawsuit by the state accusing him of sexually harassing a female employee, according to a newspaper report.

California officials announced the settlement last week with Lee William “Bill” McNutt and the firms Silicon Valley Growth Syndicate and International Direct Mail Consultants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday.

The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged in its lawsuit that McNutt took the woman, the companies’ vice president for operations and communications, on a number of trips in 2017 where he touched her under her clothes without her consent.

The woman’s lawyer sent McNutt a complaint alleging violations of California laws and suggesting she be put on paid leave. Instead she was dismissed in June 2018, according to court papers.

David Oates, a spokesman for McNutt, told the Chronicle that McNutt and his companies consider the California lawsuit “baseless.”



“However, in light of the current gender discrimination environment, they ultimately opted to spare their family and friends from the ongoing stress that defending the suit brought and agreed to this settlement,” Oates said.

In addition to the $1.8 million, the settlement prohibits McNutt from hiring students from Southern Methodist University, where the alleged victim had been a student. McNutt also attended SMU, and the Dallas Morning News has reported that the university barred him from campus in 2009 after complaints from female students.

McNutt lives in Dallas, and the Silicon Valley Growth Syndicate, formerly based in San Francisco, is now located in Little Rock, Arkansas, where it invests in startup businesses.

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