LANSING, Mich. — The lawsuit alleging ex-Lansing mayor Virg Bernero sexually assaulted and harassed a woman who interned for him was settled Tuesday. Bernero paid Liz Hart $4,500 and wrote a three-line apology letter.
Hart agreed to the settlement but said the apology isn't enough.
“There's no specifics,” Hart said. “I mean, he obviously has a different view of what happened. And I felt that it was like him, just apologizing for what he believed happened and not saying, like, 'I understand what you're feeling and how you felt that way' and how that was never my intent. But he wasn't specific.”
The settlement was not everything Hart had hoped it would be, but she says she will accept it in order to move on.
“I'm so grateful for the strength it has given me as a woman and as an individual, because I have really struggled with it these past seven years,” said Hart, who interned on Bernero's re-election campaign in 2013 and 2014. “And I didn't really realize it until I came forward, how terrible I was actually treating myself by keeping it inside me. So it is what it is. I am glad it's over.”
Bernero and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement released today, Hart said she believes Michigan’s laws around sexual assault should be changed to include any type of unwanted touching as sexual assault—no matter what part of the body is involved.
“While it's not like a Nassar situation, it still does affect people,” Hart said. “Because it's your body. And when you have you don’t give consent, and people can touch your body… then people take that away from you. It's terrifying, no matter what the touching is. If you feel uncomfortable, you are uncomfortable. So I do think it just needs to be that the actual definition should be re-examined.”
The lawsuit, the whole process, "was extremely stressful,” Hart said. “And that’s why I’m relieved it's over. And I learned why, through pain, people grow, survive. And I believe that's what I've done through this whole thing.”
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