A Republican congressman was removed from the House Ethics Committee on Saturday after it was reported that he used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a misconduct complaint by a former staffer.
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), who denies wrongdoing, reached a settlement with the aide after she claimed last year that he made unwanted romantic overtures toward her, according to a report published in the New York Times. The fourth-term lawmaker now faces an investigation by the ethics panel, according to a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
"Speaker Ryan takes the allegations against Mr. Meehan very seriously," AshLee Strong said in an emailed statement. "The speaker is committed to rooting out sexual misconduct in the House and providing victims the resources they need."
Strong noted that the House is poised to approve changes in how sexual harassment and other employee complaints are managed on Capitol Hill. Advocates have criticized the current system as weighted toward the interests of lawmakers over employees.
According to the Times, Meehan professed his romantic desire for his decades-younger staffer last year after she began seriously dating someone outside his congressional office. He became hostile toward the woman, who was not named in the story, when she did not reciprocate, the paper reported.
In an emailed statement, Meehan spokesman John Elizandro said the congressman "denies the allegations" and wants to lift the confidentiality agreement binding the settlement parties to "ensure a full and open airing of the facts."
Meehan also 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," Elizandro stated.