Melvin Watt, a former congressman from North Carolina who now heads the Federal Housing Finance Agency, is under investigation for allegedly sexually harassing a female employee.
The woman, whose attorney said does not want to be named, has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint alleging that Watt made unwanted sexual advances toward her on several occasions.
“She’s not seeking publicity," said Diane Seltzer Torre, the woman’s attorney. "She wants the investigation underway to go forward.”
Watt said in a statement issued by the FHFA that he has not broken the law.
"The selective leaks related to this matter are obviously intended to embarrass or to lead to an unfounded or political conclusion,” Watt said. “However, I am confident that the investigation currently in progress will confirm that I have not done anything contrary to law. I will have no further comment while the investigation is in progress."
The allegations were first reported by Politico, which obtained materials related to the woman’s complaint. Those documents, which Seltzer Torre declined to share, are not public record.
According to an April 2016 transcript cited by Politico, Watt told the woman during a drive from the agency to a restaurant that his attraction to her needed “to be explored.”
“In my experience there are four types of attraction: emotional, spiritual, sexual or of friendship. So the exercise here is to find out which one exists here,” Watt allegedly said.
The woman told him she was meeting with him because she thought he wanted to discuss work.
“My impression was that you wanted to discuss the work-related items I’ve been talking to [a superior] about. But, if that’s not the case, then I think I should take you back to FHFA. Because I don’t want any confusion here,” she said, according to the transcript.
In a June 2016 meeting about her salary, according to the transcript cited by Politico, Watt inquired about the woman’s ankle tattoo and offered to kiss it.
In a third conversation in November 2016, Watt allegedly asked the woman why she had rejected his advances. When she told him she was in a relationship, he allegedly said: “I love my wife too. Having an attraction for someone else doesn’t have to mean you don’t love them.”
The woman, who has worked at the agency since December 2014 and is now a special adviser, said she was denied promotion after she reported the harassment, according to Politico’s citation of the complaint documents.
Watt, 72, is a Democrat who represented Charlotte in the House from 1993 to 2014. He was then appointed by President Barack Obama to head the FHFA, which oversees mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks. His five-year term is scheduled to end in January.
Under federal guidelines, the agency must investigate the complaint within 180 days of its filing. The investigation of Watt began more than a month ago, according to the documents cited by Politico.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the FHFA oversees the Federal Housing Administration. The FHFA oversees mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks.