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Herman Cain Puts National Restaurant Assn. General Counsel on Hot Seat

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on November 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The continuing sexual harassment saga surrounding Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has placed National Restaurant Association general counsel Peter Kilgore in the hot seat.

Reports suggest it was Kilgore who struck deals and signed settlement agreements with women who accused Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s, when Cain was the group's CEO.

Now Kilgore's handling of the matter is coming under scrutiny. And general counsel nationwide are taking notes on what, and what not, to do during a crisis -- especially how to handle the media.

So far, Kilgore has declined to comment on the sexual harassment claims, citing the settlement agreements' confidentiality clauses.

Attorneys for the women who filed those claims are trying to get those clauses waived, so their clients can finally talk to reporters. Only Kilgore would need to agree, since Cain did not personally sign those agreements.

Public relations experts have some suggestions on how to deal with storms of controversy like what's happening to Herman Cain.

First, general counsel should prepare for any dark clouds they see looming on the horizon. Not having a plan to deal with foreseeable crises is like going to trial without a defense strategy, experts say.

In this case, Peter Kilgore should have prepared himself, NRA staff, and even Herman Cain for the onslaught of questions about the sexual harassment settlements, as soon as Cain announced his campaign for president.

Second, general counsel should make sure the entire organization is sending a consistent message.

That includes keeping everyone -- both professionals and nonprofessionals on your team -- up to speed about what's happening, and how your organization will respond.

Cutting some employees out of the loop may create problems -- such as disgruntled staffers going public and contradicting your message. That would be an added headache for Peter Kilgore, and any general counsel, to deal with in a time of crisis.

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