Archive

Congressman from Pa. denies misconduct claim; ethics probe may follow | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

Congressman from Pa. denies misconduct claim; ethics probe may follow

The Associated Press
TaxOverhaulRyan45797jpg1c10b
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listens to Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., speak at the Pennsylvania Machine Works, a family-owned pipe-fitting manufacturer, in Aston, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG — House Speaker Paul Ryan called for an Ethics Committee investigation Saturday after the New York Times reported that U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan used taxpayer money to settle a complaint that stemmed from his hostility toward a former aide who rejected his romantic overtures.

The story, published online Saturday, cited unnamed people who said the Philadelphia-area Republican used thousands of dollars from his congressional office fund to settle the sexual harassment complaint the ex-aide filed last summer to the congressional Office of Compliance.

In a statement, Ryan’s spokeswoman said the allegations must be investigated “fully and immediately” by the House Ethics Committee and that Meehan would immediately submit himself to the committee’s review. Meehan is being removed from his position on the committee, and Ryan told Meehan that he should repay any taxpayer funds that were used to settle the case, Ryan’s spokeswoman said.

The Times did not identify the accuser and said she did not speak to the newspaper.

In a statement, the four-term congressman’s office denied that Meehan sexually harassed or mistreated the ex-aide. It also said Meehan, the former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, had asked congressional lawyers who handled the case to ask the ex-aide’s lawyer to dissolve the settlement’s confidentiality requirements “to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts.”

“Throughout his career he has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism,” Meehan’s office said.

The accuser’s lawyer, Alexis Ronickher, called the allegations “well-grounded” and rejected the idea of doing away with confidentiality. Meehan is trying to victimize her client twice by revealing the woman’s identity and litigating the case in the media, Ronickher said.

Ronickher called it a “dirty political maneuver” by Meehan and an effort to save his political career by making it look like he’s being transparent.

“Mr. Meehan demanded confidentiality to resolve the matter, presumably so that the public would never know that he entered into a settlement of a serious sexual harassment claim,” Ronickher said.

Ronickher said the Ethics Committee investigation must include the fact that Meehan, in his Saturday statement responding to the Times article, “knowingly breached confidentiality in his agreement by discussing the case and the terms of any potential settlement agreement.”

Meehan’s office did not respond to questions about whether he used taxpayer money to settle the case or whether he would submit to the Ethics Committee investigation. However, his office said Meehan would only act with advice of House lawyers and in line with House Ethics Committee guidance to resolve any allegation.

“Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately,” Meehan’s office said.

Meehan represents a closely divided district that Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won in the 2016 presidential election.

Calls from Democrats for Meehan to resign were immediate, including one from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who said the U.S. House should investigate “how this matter was handled from top to bottom.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.