Congressman removed from ethics committee amid reports he used taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct complaint

  • GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan used taxpayer money to settle a misconduct complaint from a former aide to whom the congressmen repeatedly expressed his romantic desires, The New York Times reported.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said Saturday that Meehan has been removed from the House Ethics Committee and told he should repay the taxpayer funds.
  • Meehan’s office said he denies the allegations and has requested that all parties be released from confidentiality agreements “to ensure an open airing of all the facts.”

Rep. Patrick Meehan was removed from the House Ethics Committee on Saturday after The New York Times reported that he had settled a misconduct complaint after a former staffer accused him of making repeated unwanted romantic advances, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said.

It’s unclear how much taxpayer money Meehan’s office doled out to the former aide, but people familiar with the settlement told The Times that it was thousands of dollars from Meehan’s congressional office fund. Ryan told Meehan on Saturday that he should repay the money, Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong told The Times.

Meehan, a four-term Republican congressman, represents Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district. Meehan sits on the House Ethics Committee, which is partly responsible for investigating sexual misconduct claims in Congress.

Last year, Meehan reportedly expressed his romantic desires for one of his aides, who was decades younger than him, on multiple occasions. After she rebuffed his overtures and news spread that she had a boyfriend outside of work, Meehan became hostile, The Times said, citing interviews with 10 people familiar with the situation.

Meehan’s representatives and congressional lawyers suggested at the time that the aide had misinterpreted Meehan’s behaviour toward her.

The aide filed a complaint with the Office of Compliance, attended mandatory counseling and mediation sessions, and eventually both sides agreed on a settlement and signed a nondisclosure agreement, according to The Times.

The situation left the aide isolated from her colleagues, friends, family, and boyfriend, people to whom she confided said. She ultimately left the job, encountered difficulties finding a new one, and decided to move abroad.

‘An open airing of all the facts’

Meehan’s office said in a statement Saturday that Meehan denied all allegations against him, adding that he has requested that the aide’s lawyers “release all parties from the confidentiality requirements of the agreement to ensure an open airing of all the facts.”

The statement continued: “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.”

Meehan’s alleged behaviour comes amid an ongoing national conversation about sexual misconduct, especially in the workplace. Over the past few months, powerful men in media, entertainment, and politics have been accused of perpetrating some form of sexual misconduct.

Four congressmen-two Republicans and two Democrats-have either resigned or announced they will not seek re-election over allegations of sexual harassment. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken resigned earlier this month amid several accusations of unwanted groping and kissing.

In October, Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania announced he would resign after it was reported that he told a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion. A special election campaign to replace Murphy’s seat is already underway.

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