MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An ad paid for by Friends of Erik Paulsen accuses opponent Dean Phillips of covering up sexual harassment allegations while he was on the board at Allina Health.

The ad, approved by incumbent and candidate for Congress Erik Paulsen, throws the 2007 sexual harassment allegations of seven women into the spotlight.

Related: Erik Paulsen Ad Claims Dean Phillips Ignored Allina Sexual Harassment Claims

“I was in shock, disbelief, and then angry,” Chelsea said.

“When you bring back that horrible experience that we went through, it’s right back on the plate again,” Peggy said.

The former Allina staff cannot talk about the sexual harassment they alleged at a Richfield clinic in a resolved lawsuit due to confidentiality. They do call Paulsen’s attack ad against congressional opponent Dean Phillips inaccurate. Phillips served on the board of directors at Allina Health at the time.

Both Chelsea and Peggy said they never took their concerns to the board of directors.

“I don’t hold him accountable for nothing. That had nothing to do with Dean Phillips,” Peggy said.

The women told WCCO they are not affiliated with either candidate and are not trying to push a political agenda. They demand the Paulsen campaign pull the ad, saying they have been re-traumatized by it and they do not want to be used as political pawns.

“Just take them down and apologize for using us as his political gain to gain those votes and just drop it,” Chelsea said.

Paulsen’s campaign manager provided this statement in response:

Lori Peterson filed a complaint in court that said the board was notified by a whistle-blower of these allegations. It was printed in the Star Tribune while Dean Phillips was a member of the board. Even after the Star Tribune printed a story about it, Dean Phillips claims he didn’t know about it. Obviously, he’s admitted he didn’t do anything about the allegations.

Phillips gave this statement:

I am grateful that these survivors are sharing their truth and setting the record straight. It is shameful that a Member of Congress would manipulate their experience for political gain. They deserve better, and so do the people of Minnesota’s Third District.

Allina Health provided this statement:

A new television commercial from the political campaign of Erik Paulsen, who is running for Congress against former Allina Health board member Dean Phillips, suggests that in 2007 Allina Health did not appropriately respond to allegations of sexual harassment brought by several nurses. The truth is that Allina Health took appropriate action, consistent with our values and safe workplace policies. The employment of the person who was the subject of these allegations ended in January 2007. As a not-for-profit community health care provider, Allina Health does not engage in political campaigns. However, given the seriousness of the topic of sexual harassment we felt that it was important to address the claims in this ad.

Allina Health is committed to ensuring that all our workplaces are safe and respectful. Harassment of any kind is not tolerated and has no place in this organization. That was true in 2007 and it is true now.

Check out WCCO-TV’s 2018 Election Guide — an easy one-stop place to learn about each candidate before casting your ballot this fall.

You can also get more political insight and analysis from Pat Kessler and Esme Murphy Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on The Politics Show.

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