(National Sentinel) Democratic Sexual Harassment: Another Democratic congressman has been identified as paying a secret “severance package” to a former staffer in order to settle claims against him.
Outspoken Trump critic Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona arranged a “severance package” in 2015 for a staffer threatening a lawsuit claiming Grijalva was frequently drunk and created a hostile workplace environment.
As reported by the Washington Times, the settlement with one of his top staffers reveals yet another way in which lawmakers are able to use taxpayer dollars to hide their misbehavior.
In other cases, the Office of Compliance has come under scrutiny and has been the focal point for taxpayer outrage stemming from hush money payouts for sexual harassment claims.
But the Grijalva payout leads to another office that lawmakers can and have used to keep accusations against them from seeping out thanks to taxpayer-funded settlements: The House Employment Counsel, which essentially serves as the attorney for all House offices.
As for Grijalva’s settlement, the Times noted:
The employment counsel negotiated a deal for taxpayers to give $48,395 — five additional months’ salary — to the female aide, who left her job after three months. She didn’t pursue the hostile workplace complaint further.
The arrangement appears to run contrary to House rules that constrain severance packages, and it caught the eye of watchdogs who were already demanding answers about payouts in the wake of harassment complaints.
“It seems like all of these House bodies are designed to help cover for members of Congress,” said Melanie Sloan, an ethics lawyer in Washington. “A large part of the problem is that each member of Congress can treat their staff as their own fiefdom and also know that it will remain silent.”
Grijalva told the Times the settlement was actually part of a severance package, noting that a complaint was never filed with the Office of Compliance, the agency that customarily handles congressional workplace complaints.
“Under the terms of the agreement, had there been an allegation of sexual harassment, the employee would have been free to report it. Regrettably, for me to provide any further details on this matter would violate the agreement,” he told the paper.
He would not respond to questions about why he would provide a package worth $48,000 for an employee after only three months on the job.
Also, the payout looks to be in violation of House rules prohibiting a Congress member from retaining “an employee who does not perform duties for the offices of the employing authority commensurate with the compensation such employee receives.”
Normally, payouts are made in lump sums, not stretched out over a period of months, House rules state.
The Office of Compliance has paid out $17.2 million to settle 264 complaints of sexual harassment and other workplace violations on Capitol Hill, the Washington Post reported earlier this month.
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