WINNIPEG — A longtime Manitoba Progressive Conservative party member and volunteer says she was groped by a legislature member ousted from government caucus last month over inappropriate remarks to female staff.
The woman, who asked not to be identified because she fears coming forward might hurt her career, said she was at a party function at Tavern United, which has a rooftop bar in downtown Winnipeg, in September 2017 when she saw Cliff Graydon and stopped to say hello.
The gathering was a special event with federal and provincial Tories, because the federal Conservatives were holding a caucus meeting in the Manitoba capital.
"I was standing to his left and ... all of a sudden his hand goes around me, and he has his hand on my bottom," the woman said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"And not just on — he's got a hold of me. He's grabbed me, and I couldn't move."
"I didn't know what to do. I panicked a bit inside."
The woman said she started thinking about how to get out of the situation without making a scene.
"And then his hand moved, and it moved up. And so he put his hand under my arm and he grabbed me. At that point, I was somewhat relieved because I had a big bag over my left shoulder ... so that no one could see that he was groping me still."
Graydon then propositioned her, she said.
"He just kept saying, 'Come back to my apartment' and that he doesn't have sex, he makes love," the woman said.
"So then I said, 'What about your wife, Cliff? I know her,' and he said something to the effect of, 'Never mind her' or 'Don't worry about her.'"
"I kept trying to say 'no' in the politest way that I could think of, and I can't remember what made him let go eventually."
The woman's detailed allegation was provided to Graydon by The Canadian Press. Graydon did not respond to numerous messages left via phone, text, email and social media. A woman who answered the phone at his constituency office said she could not provide any help or comment.
Graydon, who recently admitted to making inappropriate comments to female staff, denied any inappropriate physical contact at a news conference earlier this month.
"I have not knowingly touched anyone inappropriately," he said at the time.
None of the allegations has been tested in a court and the woman has not filed a complaint with police.
She said she saw Graydon a few weeks after the rooftop event.
"He said, 'I hope I didn't embarrass you the other night,' and I said —well I lied — and I said, 'No, not at all,' because I felt slightly cornered ... and I just wanted him to go away."
The woman said she did not tell any Tory officials until February of this year, when Graydon was in the news for making social media comments about immigrants. That resulted in the party ordering him to undergo sensitivity training.
In a separate interview, a male colleague who is also a Progressive Conservative confirmed to The Canadian Press that the woman told him in February. He recounted details very similar to what the woman told the news agency.
"She told me that it was at a party function, that (Graydon) touched her in ways that made her very uncomfortable, that she felt she was trapped and couldn't leave the situation, that he invited her to his apartment, that she objected saying, 'What about your wife,'" the man said.
"I was angry."
The woman and her male colleague both said party officials were informed — but only of the alleged comments, not of the alleged groping, at the request of the woman — and sensitivity training was expanded for Graydon, who represents the Emerson constituency.
"Disciplinary action was immediately taken to the satisfaction of the victim, including the member for Emerson apologizing and undergoing sensitivity training," Tory caucus chair Wayne Ewasko said in a written statement Wednesday.
The woman said she was pleased with the way things were handled.
"Honestly, I was satisfied after that because I noticed a change in (Graydon's) behaviour and I saw that he was more subdued, not as brash," she said.
"Throughout this whole thing (the Tories) have been, I felt, very protective of me."
The woman said she decided to come forward now because of the recent revelations that Graydon invited two young female staff members, on separate occasions, to sit on his knee. There was also a recent media report that Graydon invited one female staffer to lick food off his face. Graydon said he has no memory of saying such a thing.
Graydon said at a news conference this month he is only guilty of having an outdated sense of humour.
"People who know me best can verify I have never been accused of anything remotely resembling sexual harassment," Graydon said at that news conference.
"I admit I'm guilty of having a bad sense of humour and sincerely apologize to those who have been offended by my inconsiderate jokes."
Graydon, who has said he won't run again in the next election, now sits as an Independent.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press