Rep. Pat Meehan removed from Ethics Committee after report he settled sexual misconduct complaint

House Speaker Paul Ryan removed Rep. Patrick Meehan from the House Ethics Committee on Saturday following a news repo...

Posted: Jan 21, 2018 8:49 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2018 8:49 PM

House Speaker Paul Ryan removed Rep. Patrick Meehan from the House Ethics Committee on Saturday following a news report that the Pennsylvania Republican used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a sexual misconduct complaint against him by a former aide.

Ryan told Meehan he must repay whatever taxpayer funds were used to settle the case and, although he has denied the allegations, be investigated by the Ethics Committee, Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong said in a statement Saturday.

The New York Times first reported Meehan's settlement.

"Speaker Ryan takes the allegations against Mr. Meehan very seriously," Strong's statement read. "The speaker is committed to rooting out sexual misconduct in the House and providing victims the resources they need."

The statement added that the House is set to pass major bipartisan reform to the way the House handles claims of sexual harassment," and the speaker will apply these new standards to the allegations made against Mr. Meehan."

The former aide accused Meehan of making unwanted romantic advances toward her, and when she didn't reciprocate, he grew hostile, according to the Times, which cited people familiar with her time in the office.

The former aide initiated a complaint with Congress' Office of Compliance, began working from home and ultimately left her job, the Times reported. She later reached a confidential settlement paid from Meehan's congressional office fund.

Meehan's spokesman, John Elizandro, issued a statement saying the congressman denies the allegations.

"Throughout his career, he has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism," the statement read.

"In this case, the employee, represented by counsel, made certain assertions of inappropriate behavior, which were investigated," Elizandro said. "With respect to resolving any allegation made against the office, Congressman Meehan would only act with advice of House Counsel and consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance. Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately. At Congressman Meehan's request, the congressional attorneys handling the case have asked the complainant's counsel to release all parties from the confidentiality requirements of the agreement to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts. The congressman is hopeful that they will agree to this request for full transparency.

"Rep. Meehan believes there must be real reform to the process for resolving complaints so that those who are truly wronged are given a fair forum to be heard and vindicated, and those accused are provided with an ability to respond to baseless accusations," Elizandro's statement continued. "The public to whom elected officials are answerable must be provided with a true sense of the facts and circumstances involved."

Alexis Ronickher, who represented Meehan's accuser, said in a statement that Meehan has asked her client to waive confidentiality "so he can deny well-grounded allegations knowing full well that his former staffer prizes her privacy above all else. Mr. Meehan demanded confidentiality to resolve the matter, presumably so that the public would never know that he entered into a settlement of a serious sexual harassment claim."

"Now that it has become public - due to no fault of my client's - he has flouted his legal obligations and is speaking publicly," Ronickher said. "We will not allow our client to be victimized twice by this man. If he further violates the confidentiality strictures he insisted upon and he agreed to, he will leave our client no choice but to seek legal recourse on her behalf."

The latest allegations against a sitting member of Congress surfaced the same week that a bipartisan group of House lawmakers unveiled a long-awaited plan aimed at tackling the way workplace complaints -- including sexual harassment -- are handled on Capitol Hill and holding lawmakers personally liable for settlements.

Under the current process, settlements reached after parties go through the Office of Compliance's system are paid out through a US Treasury fund. However, the settlement between Meehan and his former aide was paid out of his office fund, not the Office of Compliance, according to the Times.

Sexual harassment and accusations of inappropriate behavior led to the departures of three lawmakers in recent months: Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat; Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican; and Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat.

Franken, who left Congress earlier this month, has said that some of the allegations against him were "simply not true."

Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing a staffer. Conyers denied wrongdoing in that case, but acknowledged that there had been a financial settlement to that complaint, before he announced his retirement.

Franks has denied ever having "physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member" of his congressional staff.

Several other lawmakers have abandoned re-election bids in light of accusations of harassment or misconduct, including Nevada Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen and Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold.

The House Ethics Committee launched investigations into Franks, Conyers, Farenthold and Kihuen. Both Farenthold and Kihuen remain under investigation by the committee.

Kihuen has repeatedly denied allegations that he sexually harassed a female campaign staffer. Farenthold has denied engaging in regular verbal abuse of his staff.

A former local prosecutor, Meehan has been a vocal supporter of domestic violence victims. He is also a member of a bipartisan congressional task force to end sexual violence and has sponsored legislation requiring reporting of sexual violence.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 490011

Reported Deaths: 6618
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1016821593
Ramsey43388811
Dakota36714394
Anoka33545392
Washington22247262
Stearns18847202
St. Louis14915265
Scott13445107
Wright12635116
Olmsted1187890
Sherburne879474
Carver790941
Clay696288
Rice678691
Blue Earth604435
Kandiyohi582274
Crow Wing523682
Chisago502945
Otter Tail487171
Benton451890
Winona419749
Mower411931
Douglas395068
Goodhue390169
Nobles387347
Polk345363
McLeod341950
Beltrami339151
Morrison328147
Itasca315346
Becker315143
Lyon314045
Isanti310056
Steele304311
Carlton300649
Freeborn287124
Pine283616
Nicollet263341
Todd250330
Brown249137
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Waseca211217
Meeker208534
Martin190829
Wabasha18733
Roseau181017
Hubbard161041
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Redwood147127
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Chippewa137035
Cottonwood136120
Wadena131520
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Watonwan11838
Rock116314
Kanabec109120
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Jackson94710
Swift87818
Pope8185
Marshall78715
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Lake74318
Clearwater72014
Lac qui Parle68816
Wilkin67711
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Grant4928
Norman4808
Unassigned45368
Mahnomen4437
Kittson41121
Red Lake3615
Traverse3115
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Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 337836

Reported Deaths: 5500
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk52116562
Linn19519317
Scott17180213
Black Hawk14973294
Woodbury13858214
Johnson1317875
Dubuque12452196
Dallas1023593
Pottawattamie9899146
Story965445
Warren515176
Clinton502884
Cerro Gordo501483
Webster495888
Sioux480469
Marshall465473
Des Moines428661
Muscatine426493
Buena Vista413337
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Jasper388167
Plymouth369178
Lee354653
Marion341772
Jones285355
Henry279837
Bremer270655
Carroll266848
Crawford253435
Boone244830
Benton241554
Washington239247
Mahaska215846
Jackson210339
Dickinson204340
Tama203165
Kossuth198655
Delaware186340
Clay184525
Winneshiek183729
Fayette179535
Page178119
Buchanan178029
Wright174531
Hamilton173942
Cedar172923
Hardin170339
Harrison167870
Clayton160154
Butler159331
Mills148520
Floyd148141
Poweshiek148030
Cherokee146336
Lyon145741
Allamakee144948
Madison143318
Iowa140723
Hancock138030
Grundy132530
Winnebago130531
Calhoun129711
Cass129751
Jefferson128534
Appanoose123447
Louisa122644
Mitchell120740
Chickasaw119915
Union119331
Sac118818
Shelby117634
Emmet115440
Humboldt113925
Franklin109719
Guthrie109728
Palo Alto101721
Howard99722
Unassigned9790
Montgomery97036
Clarke95220
Keokuk92429
Monroe90028
Ida82132
Adair81630
Pocahontas80919
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Lucas72321
Osceola68315
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Van Buren53818
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