Meehan Denies Misconduct Claim 01/21 09:51
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- 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
Republican Pennsylvania representative 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
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
"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
Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who said the U.S. House should
investigate "how this matter was handled from top to bottom."