The Republican Congressman in charge of investigating employment complaints about sexual harassment in the House of Representatives just got caught paying a secret settlement one of his own former employees – but only after ruining her life.
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) became overly interested in one of his female staffers’ dating lives, and when she got a boyfriend, wrote her a long letter professing his love.
After the female staffer spurned the married Congressman, Meehan used the complaint process she initiated and he oversaw at the formerly obscure Office of Compliance – and his assignment to the House Ethics Committee – to put the screws to his former employee, who eventually moved out of the country to start anew.
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Meehan is a former local prosecutor who has been active on the bipartisan Congressional task force to end domestic violence. The Times reports:
The New York Times is not naming the former aide, who followed the recommended procedures for reporting harassment but came away from the experience feeling traumatized, according to several people with whom she shared her feelings.
They said Mr. Meehan seemed to favor her over other employees, so much so that others saw his favoritism as unprofessional. He expressed interest in her personal relationships outside the office, then seemed to become jealous in April when word spread through the office about the aide’s boyfriend. After Mr. Meehan’s professions of attraction and subsequent hostility, the woman filed a complaint with the congressional Office of Compliance over the summer, alleging sexual harassment.
The handling of that complaint — which included an aggressive pushback by representatives from Mr. Meehan’s office and congressional lawyers, who suggested she had misinterpreted the congressman’s behavior — demoralized the aide.
It led to her estrangement from her colleagues, and isolation from friends, family and her boyfriend, according to the people in whom she confided. It set her back financially and professionally, as she continued to pay legal costs associated with the complaint even after leaving her job in Mr. Meehan’s office and struggling to find a new one. She moved back in with her parents and ultimately decided to start a new life abroad.
Rep. Meehan’s spokesman denied the allegations but wouldn’t explain why the legislator agreed to the settlement and its confidentiality provisions, and then called for the former employee to waive the confidentiality provisions of their agreement.
The former staffer’s lawyer Alexis Ronickher replied sharply to Meehan’s demands by email to Politico:
“In an effort to preserve his career, Rep. Meehan has now asked my client to waive confidentiality so he can deny well-grounded allegations knowing full well that his former staffer prizes her privacy above all else,” Ronickher said by email. “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.”
The entire harassment situation arose after Rep. Meehan’s former staffer had struck up a relationship with a male senior staffer in the office, and once it became known, the Congressman came to an agreement to terminate the staffer’s employment.
Shortly afterward, Meehan gave the female staffer a letter pronouncing his love for her.
During the complaint process, the Republican lawmaker had two attorneys appointed by the House, but his staffer had to bear her own legal expenses, which extended long beyond the time of her employment.
While she was out of work, Meehan’s staffer spent more on living expenses and legal fees than she ultimately recouped in the settlement, but as many women have reported, it can be difficult to find further employment after submitting a claim of sexual harassment.
Republican House “leadership” professed no knowledge of the unseemly occurrence of their body’s top harassment investigator having secretly settled his own allegations with taxpayer funds.
This story is yet another example of “small government” Republicans run amok with their official positions and spending tax money to further their personal interests in the bedroom and the second egregious example of Congressional misconduct from the Pennsylvania delegation in the last six months alone.