Barge resigns as Monroe County commissioner amid harassment accusations
By Caroline Anders
Amanda Barge resigned her seat on the Monroe County Board of Commissioners on Monday in the wake of sexual harassment allegations revealed two weeks ago in the Indiana Daily Student.
Barge had already suspended her mayoral campaign March 26, the day after the IDS broke the story. She has denied sexually harassing former county contractor Brandon Drake or using her position to dismantle the program he led.
“I have struggled mightily with this decision, and how to defend myself from allegations of sexual harassment in a way that is respectful of everyone involved,” she wrote in her resignation letter.
Barge, 46, had insisted she would not step down, but over the last several days the Monroe County Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter Bloomington and other groups have called for her resignation.
Jennifer Crossley, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party, said the party’s decision to ask Barge to step down boiled down to damaged trust.
“Even if it’s one of our own who does something that erodes the trust of the community, we have to hold them accountable,” she said.
Drake, 42, said he felt fear lift from his shoulders when he heard about Barge’s resignation.
“I feel like I finally won one,” he said. “For once, I was able to hold someone accountable.”
Drake alleged Barge sexually harassed him for more than a year, continuing to ask him to date her after he declined multiple times, telling him he had too many rules in his sex life, accusing him of having sex with his therapist and more.
In texts reviewed by the IDS, Barge acknowledged making advances toward Drake in August and November 2017.
Drake recorded a conversation between himself and Barge at a Steak ‘n Shake on Aug. 15, 2018.
“I ate a pot gummy and drunk texted you, and I don’t actually remember, and it’s really embarrassing,” Barge said, reading him a letter she wrote.
Throughout the conversation, Barge never expressly admitted to sexual harassment, but she took responsibility for hurting him.
“I do see that it was inappropriate at that time,” Barge said. “I do see that. A hundred percent.”
Barge has publicly said the IDS article included misinformation and lacked context, but despite multiple requests from the IDS, she has never identified any specific issues.
Before running the story, the IDS approached Barge with the allegations, but she declined to address them on the record.
Drake gave the IDS hours of recorded conversation between himself and Barge and hundreds of other instances of communication, including texts and emails. Those documents show Barge seeming to admit she crossed a professional line.
“We are all fragile and flawed human beings,” read a statement Barge posted on Facebook the day she suspended her campaign for mayor. “Although I vehemently deny engaging in sexual harassment, I recognize that my actions have caused pain to my family and others.”
In a statement at Wednesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Barge said she suspended her mayoral campaign to take time with her family and “not because I am guilty of these allegations.”
Early voting for the May primary starts Tuesday, and Barge’s name will still appear on the ballot in the race against Mayor John Hamilton. Barge has not said what she would do if she received more votes than Hamilton.
Barge was elected commissioner in 2016 and would have been up for re-election in 2020. She is a licensed clinical social worker and owns a practice in Bloomington.
In Monday’s statement, Barge asked the community to develop an independent process to investigate allegations such as the ones leveled against her.
She wrote that she resigned as commissioner “with a heavy heart and concern for my family.” Barge is married with two children.
A handwritten note on her otherwise-typed resignation letter read, “Be free from judgment and love each other.”
Barge declined to comment for this story.
Drake said he’s grateful for the support he’s received from the community, but his work won’t be done until Bloomington and Monroe County step up to protect independent contractors from workplace harassment.
“The finish line is the day we see the mayor sign that legislation,” he said.
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