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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 
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 
Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who said the U.S. House should 
investigate "how this matter was handled from top to bottom."


(KA)

 
 
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