A former aide of State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) told Patch that she was wrongfully fired almost three years ago, an allegation deflected by Oakland County Democrats as part of "election year shenanigans."
Ericah Caughey, 30, of Potterville said Wednesday that when she told Brown she was pregnant in March 2009, that their working relationship quickly fell apart. Two months later, Brown had House staff fire her without a reason, according to Caughey.
Brown's supporters question why Caughey waited so long before speaking with press, as opposed to filing a wrongful termination lawsuit.
"I've never heard of a case in which someone with an alleged civil rights complaint such as this holds a press conference instead of going through the proper channels," said Frank Houston, chairman of the Oakland County Democratic Party. "I've spoken with Lisa and I think Lisa is troubled by these allegations ... I think it's a case of election year shenanigans."
Caughey, who held a press conference organized by State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) on Wednesday morning, said that she has never had the financial resources to pursue litigation against Brown, who is a member of the State Bar.
Caughey said she comes forward to bring attention to House Bill 4799, which would essentially make it illegal to coerce a woman into having an abortion against her will. Jones chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee which recently passed the bill to the full State Senate.
Brown, running for Oakland County Clerk in what is becoming a contentious race in the early stages against incumbent Republican Bill Bullard, referred questions to the non-partisan House business office, which handled Caughey's termination.
Oakland County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D-17th) called Brown "a champion of women's rights" while deriding the allegations as "completely unfounded" and "not documented anywhere."
"She's a formidable candidate for Clerk and to try and diminish her record to women voters is blatantly political and untrue," Gershenson said.
Caughey said that she had begun working for Brown in January 2009 and had a good working relationship before announcing that she had become pregnant in early March.
Shortly thereafter, she said Brown made her "feel very uncomfortable" with unprofessional behavior, including an incident in which she says Brown made a vulgar suggestion alluding to abortion.
"She was looking out of a window at the Capitol lawn, where there was a pro-life rally happening. She kept saying to me, 'those people disgust me,'" Caughey said. "She told me, 'I should take you down there and walk behind you with a coat hanger.'"
Caughey said that another former aide, Kevin Kresch, heard the vulgarity and further confided in her that Brown told him she was uncomfortable with Caughey's pregnancy. Kresch told The Detroit News that the allegations were false.
"But it's my word against his," Caughey said. "A lawsuit would be a wasted effort for me. I just wanted people to know that this made me feel very uncomfortable and that no one should have to deal with it."
Caughey continued that after "looking for a reason" to fire her for two months, that she was let go in May 2009. Houston said that based on secondhand knowledge, he believed the firing was performance-related.