WASHINGTON — Consultant Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican who has taken a number one function in combating sexual harassment in Congress, used 1000’s of in taxpayer cash to settle his personal misconduct grievance after a former aide accused him final yr of constructing undesirable romantic overtures to her, based on a number of folks acquainted with the settlement.
A married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had lengthy expressed curiosity within the private lifetime of the aide, who was many years youthful and had regarded the congressman as a father determine, based on three individuals who labored with the workplace and 4 others with whom she mentioned her tenure there.
However after the girl turned concerned in a severe relationship with somebody outdoors the workplace final yr, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic wishes for her — first in particular person, after which in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she didn’t reciprocate, the folks acquainted with her time within the workplace stated.
Life within the workplace turned untenable, so she initiated the grievance course of, began working from house and in the end left the job. She later reached a confidential settlement with Mr. Meehan’s workplace that included a settlement for an undisclosed quantity to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional workplace fund.
Sexual misconduct accusations towards highly effective males throughout a spread of industries in current months have prompted a nationwide dialog about gender dynamics within the office, and the inadequacy of help programs for victims. In Congress, a number of lawmakers have left workplace or introduced their retirements in current months over sexual harassment claims.
Nonetheless, Congress stays a office the place victims say they’ve few efficient avenues for recourse.
Mr. Meehan’s case sheds new mild on secretive congressional processes for dealing with such complaints, which advocates say are slanted to favor abusers, permitting them to make use of the huge assets of the federal authorities to intimidate, isolate and silence their victims.
As a member of the Home Ethics Committee, Mr. Meehan is tasked with being part of the answer. The panel has initiated investigations into sexual misconduct claims towards at the least 4 congressmen in current months. Two have resigned: Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona, and John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan. The opposite two, Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, and Ruben Kihuen, a freshman Democrat from Nevada, stay in workplace however have stated they won’t search re-election.
Mr. Meehan has been pushing for protections for home violence victims since his time as an area prosecutor. In Congress, he has sponsored laws mandating the reporting of sexual violence, and he’s a member of a bipartisan congressional activity power to finish such violence.
The congressman didn’t reply to voice mail messages left on his cellphone looking for remark, and his workplace didn’t reply to telephone and e mail messages. Requested on Friday night time outdoors his congressional workplace whether or not he regretted his therapy of the aide, Mr. Meehan informed a reporter, “Thanks for being right here tonight,” then entered the workplace, the door closing behind him.
AshLee Robust, a spokeswoman for the Home speaker, Paul D. Ryan, stated that “that is new info to us” when requested concerning the settlement in a short interview on Friday. Mr. Meehan’s former aide declined a number of requests for remark.
This account relies on interviews with 10 folks, together with pals and former colleagues of the previous aide and others who labored across the workplace. The New York Occasions just isn’t naming the previous aide, who adopted the really helpful procedures for reporting harassment however got here away from the expertise feeling traumatized, based on a number of folks with whom she shared her emotions.
Mr. Meehan’s household was near the previous aide, based on pals and colleagues, and she or he was considered an integral worker within the workplace, based on individuals who labored in or across the workplace.
They stated Mr. Meehan appeared to favor her over different workers, a lot in order that others noticed his favoritism as unprofessional. He expressed curiosity in her private relationships outdoors the workplace, then appeared to turn out to be jealous in April when phrase unfold by way of the workplace concerning the aide’s boyfriend. After Mr. Meehan’s professions of attraction and subsequent hostility, the girl filed a grievance with the congressional Workplace of Compliance over the summer season, alleging sexual harassment.
The dealing with of that grievance — which included an aggressive pushback by representatives from Mr. Meehan’s workplace and congressional legal professionals, who advised she had misinterpreted the congressman’s conduct — demoralized the aide. It led to her estrangement from her colleagues, and isolation from pals, household and her boyfriend, based on the folks in whom she confided. It set her again financially and professionally, as she continued to pay authorized prices related to the grievance even after leaving her job in Mr. Meehan’s workplace and struggling to discover a new one. She moved again in along with her dad and mom and in the end determined to begin a brand new life overseas.
Mr. Meehan was represented on this course of by two officers from his congressional workplace and two legal professionals for the Home’s workplace of employment counsel.
After counseling and mediation classes mandated by the Workplace of Compliance, the perimeters reached an settlement that included a settlement and a strict nondisclosure settlement, based on folks acquainted with the method.
The precise quantity of the settlement couldn’t be decided, partly as a result of Mr. Meehan’s workplace paid it from a congressional workplace fund that enables such funds to be disguised as wage and reported months after they had been made. However folks acquainted with the payout stated it was 1000’s of .
A number of of these interviewed traced the girl’s difficulties in Mr. Meehan’s workplace to 2016, when a senior male member of the workplace employees professed his romantic attraction to the girl. She reported the advance to Mr. Meehan, and the senior worker left his job after reaching an settlement with Mr. Meehan, based on an individual with direct information of the episode who labored within the workplace. Not lengthy after, Mr. Meehan signaled his personal romantic wishes to the girl.
The aide’s dealings with the Workplace of Compliance left her feeling as if the settlement was not definitely worth the emotional misery the method had precipitated, stated the chums and former colleagues. All spoke to The Occasions on the situation of anonymity as a result of they had been involved that, if legal professionals for Mr. Meehan or the Home accused the girl of violating the nondisclosure settlement, her settlement might be withdrawn and her profession prospects additional broken.
Different ladies who’ve endured the grievance course of have suffered private penalties.
“I attempted to get one other job with one other member of Congress, and I used to be blackballed. No one wished to the touch me,” stated Marion Brown, who filed the grievance that led to Mr. Conyers’s resignation, and who was not talking concerning the Meehan case. “And I’m nonetheless going by way of backlash, as a result of he resigned with out admitting doing something flawed.”
Underneath federal regulation, accusers should bear a confidential course of through which co-workers who may be capable of present corroborating proof are excluded. They typically should wait about three months earlier than submitting an official grievance, but they need to provoke the method no later than 180 days after the offending conduct. As soon as the method is initiated, accusers should undergo as much as 30 days of counseling and full one other 30 days of mediation.
Alexis Ronickher, who represented Mr. Meehan’s accuser, declined to touch upon the specifics of her case. However Ms. Ronickher, who has represented a number of congressional aides who’ve filed sexual harassment complaints with the Workplace of Compliance, stated, “Given the confirmed dysfunction of the method as now we have it now, it’s vital that Congress act on laws to revise the method in order that victims aren’t re-harmed once they pursue their rights.”
Underneath the present course of, settlements reached by way of the Workplace of Compliance’s adjudication system are imagined to be allotted by way of a particular account within the Treasury. However based on knowledge launched by the Workplace of Compliance, just one current case involving sexual abuse has resulted in a payout from that workplace: Taxpayers shouldered an $84,000 settlement fee to a former communications director for Mr. Farenthold.
Different settlements — together with those reached by the workplaces of Mr. Conyers and Mr. Meehan — have been paid by way of Home members’ workplace accounts. A number of proposals are pending earlier than Congress to overtake the harassment reporting course of, and a few would bar payouts from workplace funds.
Mr. Meehan’s accuser paid her personal legal professionals’ charges, and the settlement she reached was not sufficient to cowl her authorized and dwelling bills whereas she was out of labor, based on an individual with whom she mentioned her funds.
The congressman has been considered a goal for Democrats as a result of his district, which is taken into account among the many nation’s most gerrymandered, was carried narrowly by Hillary Clinton within the 2016 presidential election.
One of many main Democratic prospects, State Senator Daylin Leach, suspended his bid in December, after he was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.