Toronto: Breaking his silence, India-born David Davidar, the former CEO of Penguin International, today claimed that he had a "consensual, flirtatious relationship" with his ex-colleague Lisa Rundle, dismissing her accusation of sexual harassment.
52-year-old Davidar said the two had offices next to each other at Penguin in the latter part of 2005 and had become friends. Two years later, their friendship had become "flirtatious", a statement issued by his lawyer Peter A Downard here said.
Davidar had last week said that the company had terminated his services in the wake of the sexual harassment suit slapped against him by Rundle, a former Rights and Contracts Director of Penguin Canada, who demanded 523,000 dollars in damages.
She filed the suit on June 10 in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleging that Davidar, who was also President of Penguin Canada, sexually harassed her repeatedly over the past three years, culminating in outright assault at the `Frankfurt Book Fair` last fall, and that she was fired after complaining to superiors about his "twisted treatment" of her.
Rundle of Toronto is claiming damages of 423,000 dollars from Penguin for "wrongful" dismissal and the "harsh, vindictive and malicious fashion" with which it allegedly treated her following her complaints against Davidar.
She is also seeking damages of 100,000 dollars against Davidar personally.
"David Davidar has not sexually harassed anyone. He has not assaulted anyone. David Davidar had a consensual, flirtatious relationship that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. He deeply regrets the hurt this has caused his wife," Downard said in the statement.
He said at Rundle`s invitation, Davidar had played tennis with her and in 2007, Davidar suggested to her that the relationship become "more romantic", but the woman said she had more than one suitor, he being one among them, and that it would be important to her that any such relationship is not kept a secret.
Accepting the situation, Davidar wrote to her personal e-mails, read poetry to her and the two exchanged gifts from time to time, the lawyer said.
In August 2008, Rundle invited Davidar to a tennis tournament and their personal, social friendship resumed after a gap of six months during which the two had agreed to keep their relationship "strictly professional."
Downard said Davidar and Rundle "kissed on two occasions".
"The first was in Rundle`s room during the October 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair referred to in Rundle`s claim. However, contrary to Rundle`s claim, Davidar did not bully his way into her room nor did he force himself upon her," he said.
"Two days later, Davidar and Rundle went to dinner at a restaurant. After dinner, Davidar kissed Rundle again, this time in his hotel room," the statement said.