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Candidate denies harassment claim

The Democratic nominee for Palm Beach County's state attorney race angrily denies sexual harassment allegations he says are politically timed.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday, four weeks before the election, charges that lawyer Barry Krischer made sexual advances toward a legal secretary who worked for him in 1990 and 1991.

"I am really totally stunned by the complaint because the charges are totally and completely false," Krischer said. "I would hope to God the public would perceive this was politically motivated."

Jodi Bergeron, 28, now working as a legal secretary in Vermont, says Krischer fondled and kissed her and made sexually suggestive remarks while she worked for him. She is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Bergeron and her attorney, Jay Hurley in Deerfield Beach in Broward County, denied that the suit was timed to damage Krischer's campaign.

"I wouldn't know Barry Krischer if he walked in and sat on me," Hurley said. "I have no connections in Palm Beach County."

Bergeron said she had been trying for seven months to find a lawyer to take her case, but none she contacted in Palm Beach County would represent her.

Krischer hinted that his opponent, Republican Phil Butler, or one of Butler's supporters might have influenced the suit's timing.

Randy Nielsen, political adviser to the Butler campaign, rejected that suggestion: "Mr. Krischer needs to focus on this internally rather than make accusations that it's political."

The winner will succeed longtime Republican incumbent David Bludworth, who decided not to seek re-election after a high-profile term that included the unsuccessful prosecution of William Kennedy Smith in an alleged rape.