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Rep. Pat Meehan paid out nearly $40,000 to settle sexual harassment claim

Jonathan Tamari and Chris Brennan, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Political News

Meehan said he would repay the public funds if the Ethics Committee finds that he did, in fact, commit sexual harassment. The panel is reviewing his actions, and he was removed from the committee in January, after the settlement was revealed by The New York Times, which reported only that it was worth "thousands."

Meehan, 62 and married, was accused by his aide of expressing romantic feelings toward her and turning hostile when she began a serious relationship with another man, according to The Times. Meehan said he saw the aide as a "soul mate" but remained loyal to his wife and never sought a romantic or sexual relationship.

In the interview last week he said he was advised by House attorneys that settling the claim using his office account was possible, and that other lawmakers had followed a similar route. While Conyers is one known example, it's unclear how many others have done so, since such payments are not publicly revealed.

Meehan said he was told last year that the House Administration Committee was unlikely to approve a settlement from the formal fund for harassment cases. A spokeswoman for the committee's chairman, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said in an email Thursday that no requests for any types of settlements have come to him since he took charge last year, but that he believed "members, not taxpayers, should ultimately pay the cost to settle a claim of sexual harassment."

With that option closed off and the dispute likely headed into litigation, Meehan said he wanted to find a path that would resolve it without a public fight and allow him and his former aide to move on. So he turned to his congressional account.

"When we were in litigation mode it was suggested to me that there might be another option," Meehan said in last week's interview.

 

Alexis Ronickher, the former aide's attorney, declined to comment on the amount of the settlement. She previously called the accusation against Meehan "a serious sexual harassment claim."

Brady has co-sponsored legislation to rewrite Congress' rules on sexual harassment cases, including provisions requiring lawmakers to personally repay any settlements and barring them from using their taxpayer-funded Member Resource Accounts, as Meehan did. Any settlements would be published online every six months.

(c)2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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