Politico reported on Sunday that when Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association, a post he held from 1996 to 1999, "at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior."

According to Politico's sources, the women left the lobbying group after signing agreements that provided them with financial payouts but prohibited them from talking about the reasons for their departure. These sources described the agreements as an attempt to cover up the matter rather than dealing with it openly.

Politico explains that it "learned of the allegations against [Cain], and over the course of several weeks, has put together accounts of what happened by talking to a lengthy roster of former board members, current and past staff and others familiar with the workings of the trade group at the time Cain was there."

According to Politico, there were multiple incidents, among them being "conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship."

One source described being present when a woman complained to a board member that Cain had invited her up to his suite during an association event. When Politico contacted former officers and board members of the group however, the majority of them had favorable memories of Cain and described him as treating everyone professionally and fairly.

On October 24, a Cain spokesperson acknowledged to Politico that he was familiar with certain "old and tired allegations" but insisted that the matter “was settled amicably among all parties many years ago” and that raising it now amounts to a "smear campaign." A few days later, he told Politico that he had spoken about the matter with Cain, who "remembered there was something vaguely, some allegation, but he wasn’t familiar with it."

Over the last ten days, Cain and his campaign have repeatedly been asked about the growing rumors and have refused to comment. On Sunday morning, Cain was bombarded with questions from reporters when he left CBS News after an appearance on Face the Nation. He responded that he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and can not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.”

Photo by John Trainor from Flickr.