The House Ethics Committee announced on Monday that it is investigating Rep. Pat Meehan, following a new report over the weekend that said the Pennsylvania Republican had used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a sexual misconduct complaint against him by a former aide.
The heads of the House ethics panel said it would begin looking into allegations in The New York Times that Meehan "may have engaged in sexual harassment and misused official resources, namely his Member's Representational Allowance." They also noted that Meehan himself had written to the committee to ask that it review the allegations.
The Times reported that a former aide accused Meehan of making unwanted romantic advances toward her and that when she didn't reciprocate, he grew hostile. 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.
Following the publication of the Times story, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, announced that he was removing Meehan from the House Ethics Committee. Ryan also said Meehan must repay taxpayer funds that were used to settle the case.
Meehan has since issued a statement saying he denies the allegations in the Times story, and that "every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately." The congressman also asked that the accuser release all parties from the confidentiality agreement so that there can be a "full and open airing of all the facts."
The lawyer representing Meehan's accuser responded, "We will not allow our client to be victimized twice by this man," and sharply criticized Meehan for addressing any details of the settlement at all.
"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," said attorney Alexis Ronickher.
As is typical, the Ethics Committee noted on Monday that "the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violations has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee."
The House Ethics Committee is currently also investigating Reps. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican, and Ruben Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, for allegations of sexual harassment. Both have said they will not seek re-election after their current terms.
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