HARRISBURG — The Wolf administration in 2016 paid nearly a million dollars to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against a former midlevel manager in the Revenue Department, the largest payout made public to date involving allegations of sexual misconduct in Pennsylvania state government.
Administration officials confirmed Monday that they paid $900,000 to a woman who worked for the department, which collects taxes and enforces the state's tax law.
The longtime employee accused a district administrator in her department of harassing her, sexually assaulting her, and making racial slurs, including references to slavery. The woman said the harassment occurred over a two-year period between 2011 and 2013, when Tom Corbett, a Republican, was governor.
The payout was first reported Monday afternoon by the Associated Press. Last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Inquirer and Daily News reported that House Democrats in 2015 secretly paid nearly $250,000 to a onetime legislative staffer who claimed that State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks) sexually harassed her over several years.
The settlement in the case involving the Revenue employee stems from a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. In the case, the woman claimed that Albert Forlizzi II, 62, "used his position to abuse … her in blatantly sexual and racist ways," including fondling her breasts and touching her vagina. According to a complaint filed in the suit, at one point Forlizzi, who is white, told the woman, who is black, that "he would have had her as his slave in the Civil War era."
The Post-Gazette and Inquirer and Daily News do not typically name victims of sexual or indecent assault unless they ask to be named.
Court records show that Forlizzi pleaded no contest in state court to charges of indecent assault and official oppression, and is partway through a four-year probation sentence.
He is also required to register as a sex offender, according to court records. A message left at a phone number listed for Forlizzi was not returned Monday night, and his criminal defense attorney declined comment. Forlizzi no longer works for the state.
David Koller, the Philadelphia-based attorney representing the woman, said the experience was difficult for his client, who now struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Everyone will look at the money and think that it's great and it's helpful, but it obviously doesn't solve or resolve all of the issues of what happened to her," Koller said Monday night.
He added later, "To my client's credit, I think that she did as great of a job as anyone could under these circumstances in sharing what happened to her. … The racial allegations alone were terrible, and so when you couple that on top of the sexual harassment allegations, it's a case that is unbelievable."
In a statement, J.J. Abbott, spokesman for Democratic Gov. Wolf, called the conduct "abhorrent, appalling and criminal."
"This specific 2013 case is egregious conduct," Abbott said. "The abuser deserved to be held accountable and the victim deserved justice for what she endured."
News of this settlement comes amid revelations that others in the Capitol have been accused of sexual harassment or similar misconduct.
The Inquirer and Daily News and the Post-Gazette have requested, under the state's Right-to-Know law, all payouts by administration officials dating back a decade. It was not immediately clear if the $900,000 was the only payout that had been authorized in that time frame.
The newspapers have reported that the legislature quietly paid at least one settlement of $248,000 to a woman who worked for Caltagirone. House Democratic officials have said they settled the case to avoid a costlier legal battle. Caltagirone has said that he is innocent and had wanted to fight the allegations in court.
Eight women and three men have told the Inquirer and Daily News that State Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County running for Congress, made sexualized jokes or inappropriately touched young women who worked for him.