Bloomberg’s Sexual Blind Spot

Testimony of Would-Be Mayor Bares Indifference to Harassment, Misinformation on Rape

In his deposition, Bloomberg conceded that the most the company offered to do was to transfer Olszewski out of Lewis's unit, meaning she would still be working on the same wide-open sales floor, without any offices or partitions, as Lewis, who was regarded as a powerful figure within the department. Asked why the company didn't offer to move Lewis, Bloomberg said: "He seemed content with where he was." Lewis was not Olszewski's supervisor at the time of the alleged rape in 1993, but became her boss shortly afterwards, a sequence that assumed great importance in Bloomberg's deposition. Though Lewis was a senior executive within Olszewski's department, Bloomberg said it was only a violation of company policy if supervisors had sex with subordinates who "reported" to them.

Within a month of making the rape charge in 1995 Olszewski's attorney provided Bloomberg with the results of a lie detector test confirming her belief that Lewis had raped her. On the other hand, Lewis did not even take a polygraph during the company's supposed yearlong investigation. Instead he took—and passed—the test four days after he and the company were served with Olszewski's suit, contending that their hotel sexual encounter was so consensual she "guided" his "penis into her vagina."

In her own subsequent deposition, Olszewski said she and Lewis had been drinking, first in a larger group of coworkers and then alone and that she'd gone with him to his hotel room. She said he disrobed, surprised her from behind, pushed her pants down, and "all of a sudden" penetrated her. "He never touched my lips, never, ever," Olszewski testified. "All I can remember is, I kept trying to push this thing off me. He was so heavy. It was so frightening. It was weird. It was so alien. I remember my legs were all over going like this, my hips. I couldn't get him out of me." Lewis claimed she took her clothes off, told him what time to set the alarm for, and freely joined him.

Illustration by Sean Beavers

Olszewski decided not to report the incident—claiming she "didn't want to acknowledge that something like this happened"—and tried to avoid social contact with Lewis, who, she said, pressured her repeatedly to go out for drinks. He also kept telling her she had "to prove" herself to him, which Olszewski took to mean that she should have sex with him, if she wanted to get more accounts and higher bonuses within the unit. She says she finally confronted Lewis when he cut her accounts during a reorganization and he allegedly said: "Well. You never proved to me that I should give you the accounts."

"What do you mean 'prove' to you?" Olszewski asked. "This is personal." Lewis testified that she then threatened to "show" him "just how personal I can make this." A day or two later, she, Lewis, and Eccleston had the 1995 meeting, and a frustrated Olszewski soon stopped coming to work, leading to her termination.

The Olszewski and Garrison cases combine to depict a sales floor where, as two men who formerly worked there, Jim Feingold and Rowland Hunt, put it in court documents, women "wore very short skirts, racy, unbusinesslike." Sexual comments and body-shot drinking games at company parties were reportedly commonplace, as were incidents like the office display of a brochure for sex toys, a female blow-up sex doll, and rubber breasts that squirted liquid from the nipples.

When Olszewski's attorney failed to file response papers and the suit was dismissed in March 1999, she dropped her lawyer and represented herself on appeal against Bloomberg's white-shoe law firm, Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher, losing again that December. But in 2000, another attorney, David Mair, began pressing a motion to vacate the default judgment against her on the basis of her prior lawyer's alleged "mental illness." Bloomberg attorneys resisted, arguing that Olszewski's lawyer had handled other cases in the same time frame "aggressively" and competently, leading U.S. District Court Judge Robert Patterson to quash Olszewski's subpoena for her prior lawyer's medical and disciplinary records.

But Patterson—the same judge who'd dismissed the case in 1999—was clearly conflicted, saying at an October 2000 hearing that his concern was that "there be justice here and not be some technicality standing in the way of justice," and speaking sorrowfully about "any possible injustice to the plaintiff." He also spoke of a possible settlement with Bloomberg, saying he was "sure that the parties have discussed settlement from time to time," but that he didn't "have any insight as to why, at this stage, there would be any hope of a settlement."

Accusing Olszewski's prior attorney of "raping this defense by not responding in a timely manner," he issued a ruling on December 12 safeguarding the lawyer's "privacy rights" but giving Olszewski 28 days to file the vacate papers he all but solicited. Had Olszewski submitted a motion to overturn the default ruling and Patterson granted it, the case would have been very much alive during Bloomberg's mayoral campaign. Patterson even extended the deadline but Olszewski never filed the motion, and the judge closed the case on February 20, 2001.

Within six days of the closing of the case, Olszewski, who was described by her attorney as unable to pay $14,769 in court disbursement costs, moved into a luxury condo at 300 South Pointe Drive in Miami Beach and set up an investment firm there. Bob Lennon, the broker for Portofino Towers, says Olszewski has expressed an interest in buying the two-bedroom, 2042-square-foot apartment, which rents for $5000 a month and would sell, he says, for about $840,000. On February 28 she closed the office of a Manhattan hedge fund firm she ran, changing the name to Madison Financial Management LLC and operating it out of her apartment in Florida, where she has five unlisted phone lines.

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