Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) arranged for a top staffer to be given a "severance package" worth $48,395 after she threatened a lawsuit alleging Grijalva was often drunk at work and created a hostile work environment.
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that the House Employment Counsel negotiated the deal with the staffer, who received the equivalent of five months' salary and agreed to drop the lawsuit.
The settlement was negotiated after Grijalva's office stopped paying the female staffer in order to force her to the table, Tuscon.com reports. The staffer, whose name was not released, had only been employed by the Democratic lawmaker's office for three months.
In a statement to Tuscon.com, the Arizona lawmaker stressed that none of the accusations against him were sexual in nature, a clear reference to allegations that have ensnared other members of Congress recently, including Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAl Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (D-Minn.) and Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersThe faith community can help pass a reparations bill California comes to terms with the costs and consequences of slavery Democrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote MORE Jr. (D-Mich.).
"On the advice of House Employment Counsel, I provided a severance package to a former employee who resigned. The severance did not involve the Office of Compliance and at no time was any allegation of sexual harassment made, and no sexual harassment occurred," Grijalva said in a statement.
"Under the terms of the agreement, had there been an allegation of sexual harassment, the employee would have been free to report it," he added.
Melanie Sloan, the Washington, D.C., ethics lawyer who came forward with accusations against Conyers, told The Washington Times that Grijalva's story was another example of congressional offices covering for members' inappropriate behavior.
“It seems like all of these House bodies are designed to help cover for members of Congress,” said Sloan. “A large part of the problem is that each member of Congress can treat their staff as their own fiefdom and also know that it will remain silent.”