House Ethics panel reviewing allegations against Grijalva

House Ethics panel reviewing allegations against Grijalva
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations that Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the Natural Resources Committee chairman, created a hostile work environment from drinking on the job, his spokesman confirmed on Friday.

The ethics investigation comes after Grijalva arranged for a female staffer to be given a roughly $48,000 "severance package" when she threatened a lawsuit alleging Grijalva was frequently drunk on the job and created a hostile work environment. 

The Ethics Committee voted late last year to dismiss allegations that Grijalva had misused the funds in paying the former employee in 2015.

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But Grijalva's spokesman, Geoff Nolan, told The Hill that the Ethics panel is now reviewing the underlying allegations, though it hasn't opened a formal investigation. Nolan also said the allegations were related to workplace drinking and did not involve sexual harassment. 

Grijalva said in a statement that he expects the review to exonerate him from wrongdoing.

“I welcome any further look into this matter because I’m confident it will fully exonerate me, and I’m excited to see it completed as soon as possible. I look forward to full vindication and [to] prove that I have always created a positive work environment for my staff and conducted myself professionally," Grijalva said.

A spokesman for the House Ethics Committee declined to comment. 

E&E News first reported Friday that Ethics is reviewing the allegations.

Grijalva, who has served in Congress since 2003, became chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee in January. He's also a former chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

As the top Democrat on the Natural Resources panel, Grijalva frequently tangled with former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeNew policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Overnight Energy: EPA proposes scrapping limits on coal plant waste | Appointee overseeing federal lands once advocated selling them | EPA lifts Obama-era block on controversial mine Latest appointee overseeing federal public lands once advocated to sell them MORE.

In November, Grijalva wrote an op-ed in USA Today calling for Zinke to resign over multiple ethics scandals. 

Zinke responded by accusing Grijalva of being a drunk, writing in a statement, “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle."

“This comes from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior. He should resign and pay back the taxpayer hush money and the tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spent investigating unfounded allegations," Zinke added.

Zinke ultimately submitted his resignation a few weeks later, saying that "after 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations. It is better for the President and Interior to focus on accomplishments rather than fictitious allegations."

When asked by The Hill last year if he had a drinking problem, Grijalva said, "I do not."