The House Ethics Committee said Monday that it is investigating a former member of the panel, Rep. Patrick Meehan, after allegations of sexual harassment and a secret settlement paid with taxpayer funds.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) removed Meehan (R-Pa.) from the Ethics Committee on Saturday after the New York Times published allegations that Meehan made unwanted romantic advances toward a female employee then paid her a settlement from his congressional office account to keep her silent. Meehan has denied wrongdoing and called for “a full and open airing of the facts.”
In a joint statement, Ethics Committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and ranking Democrat Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said that Meehan had submitted a written request to the panel asking that it review the matter. The committee, they said, “has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”
“The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” Brooks and Deutch said.
Meehan is a former federal prosecutor who is in his fourth term and serves on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He is alleged in the Times report to have declared his romantic desire for his aide, who is significantly younger than the 62-year-old married lawmaker, after she began seriously dating someone outside his congressional office. The paper said he became hostile toward the unnamed woman when she did not accept his advances.
Spokesman John Elizandro said in a statement Saturday that Meehan supports “real reform” in the process for resolving employee complaints in Congress 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.”
According to the Ethics Committee statement, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) has been appointed to replace Meehan on the panel.
Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.