Meehan booted from Ethics Committee, settled aide’s claim

Congressman Patrick Meehan, a three-term Republican from Pennsylvania, was removed from the House Ethics Committee on Saturday following a report he’d settled a sexual harassment claim brought by a former aide, and did it with taxpayer money.

The report says that Meehan, a 62 year-old married father-of-three had been a mentor for the unnamed aide. 

But when the aide got involved in a serious relationship with someone else, Meehan expressed his interest – both in person and in a handwritten letter, it is claimed. The New York Times report says he grew hostile when she didn’t reciprocate.

Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) denies allegations that he acted inappropriately with a former aide

Serving on the Ethics Committee, Meehan has long been seen as an advocate, pushing for protections for domestic violence victims, sponsoring legislation that would mandate the reporting of sexual violence, and he is also a member of a bipartisan task force to end domestic violence.

Meehan reached a confidential settlement with the aide and she left his office, it is claimed. He reportedly paid the settlement with his congressional office fund.

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

In a statement, the 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.

House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) has called on Meehan to repay his congressional office fund.

House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) has called on Meehan to repay his congressional office fund.

House Speaker Paul Ryan reacted to the report swiftly, removing Meehan from his position on the Ethics Committee, and urging him to repay the fund. 

In a statement, Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong said: ‘Speaker Ryan takes the allegations against Mr. Meehan very seriously.  The speaker is committed to rooting out sexual misconduct in the House and providing victims the resources they need.’ 

The Ethics Committee will now launch an investigation into Meehan’s actions.  They are already investigating at least four other representatives, including Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.).