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Watchdog: Former Rep. Mel Watt attempted to 'coerce' employee into relationship
A recently released watchdog report found that former Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) used his position as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to "coerce or induce" a female subordinate to have a "personal relationship" with him.
The inspector general report was released after The Washington Post submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for it, the newspaper reported Friday. Watt, who was appointed by former President Obama, retired at the end of his term in January.
"He attempted to coerce or induce the PMO Manager to engage in a personal relationship with him by suggesting or implying he would use his official authority to assist her in attaining an executive position with FHFA," the watchdog report states.
Watt has denied the allegations while Simone Grimes, the former employee named in the watchdog investigation, praised the results of the investigation in a statement to the Post.
"Standing up for myself ... has not been an easy thing to do," Grimes said. "I hope all of this will make future complaints against high powered officials easier for the next employee (male or female) that finds themselves in a similar position."
The report said that Watt and Grimes met alone in his apartment, and Watt raised two opportunities for her to receive a promotion. It said that in a recording of their conversation, Watt can be heard discussing his attraction to the subordinate while talking to her about ways she can move up in the administration.
"We find that there are no circumstances under which it would be appropriate for the head of FHFA to induce a subordinate employee to meet with him alone, in his apartment, for a conversation in which he professes his attraction for that employee and holds out opportunities for the employee to serve in specific executive positions over which he exercises total control," the report stated.
According to the Post, the investigation was sent to the White House after it was completed in November.
In an official response, Watt said that he "strongly disagreed" with the report's findings.
"The Draft OIG Report reflects that the real interests of the FHFA OIG in this matter have turned out to be deflecting attention away from the OIG's own involvement in causing Ms. Simone Grimes to file legal claims against FHFA, getting a quick result, and protecting the OIG from political criticism, instead of making an effort to obtain and fairly report the facts," he wrote to the inspector general's office.
Grimes publicly accused Watt of sexual harassment in a testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in September.
"Not only are you hurt by what has happened, but you quickly learn that all of the agency mechanisms that you hope have a sympathetic ear are not only slightly hostile, but make it clear that they're not there to support you, but defend their client no matter what their client has done," she said at the time.