House

Republican lawmaker settled harassment complaint with former staffer: report

Keren Carrion

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan (R), a member of the House Ethics Committee, used taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim made by a former staffer, according to a Saturday report.

Meehan reportedly settled the claim for an undisclosed amount paid out of his congressional office fund, The New York Times reported. The fund allows payments to be disguised as salary and reported months later, but the Times reported the sum is likely in the thousands.

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Meehan, a married father of three who has been involved in investigations into at least four lawmakers for similar claims in recent months, was accused of professing romantic desires to a staffer after she became involved in a relationship with someone outside Meehan’s office. Meehan, who is decades older than his accuser, allegedly grew hostile when she did not accept his romantic overtures.

The Times discussed the allegations with multiple people close to the situation, as the woman is under a nondisclosure agreement. After leaving the lawmaker’s office, she moved back in with her parents and then moved abroad, the Times said.

Meehan did not comment on the allegations to the Times.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) spokeswoman AshLee Strong told The Hill in a statement that Ryan would immediately remove Meehan from the House Ethics Committee over the report, and that he should repay taxpayers for the cost of the settlement.
 
“Following a conversation with the Speaker today, Mr. Meehan will immediately submit himself to the Ethics Committee for review,” Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. 
 
“The new reforms going into place bar the use of taxpayer money to pay settlements, and so the speaker has also told Mr. Meehan that he should repay whatever taxpayer funds were used to settle this case,” she added.
 
“In addition, Mr. Meehan is being immediately removed from the House Ethics Committee.”

Meehan joins a growing list of lawmakers who’ve been outed for using the Office of Compliance to settle sexual misconduct claims, which allows lawmakers to disguise the exact amounts of the payouts.

Last year, the former longest-serving House lawmaker, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) stepped down after a similar settlement was uncovered.

Updated 5:01 p.m.

Tags #MeToo movement Congress House John Conyers Patrick Meehan Paul Ryan Paul Ryan Republican Party Sexual harassment Sexual misconduct

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