Democratic congressman John Conyers 'vehemently' denies sexual harassment

Saturday, 25 Nov, 2017

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) told CNN Wednesday that his colleague Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) should step down from his post as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee in light of a Buzzfeed report that his office paid more than $27,000 in 2015 to settle a complaint of sexual harassment.

On Monday evening, the website Buzzfeed News reported Conyers, 88, settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman alleging she was sacked because she rejected his sexual advances.

Conyers spent 142 words and almost half his statement cautioning people not to assume that his accusers are right before getting to the headline of his statement: He denies that he made sexual advances against women on his staff.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said this morning he'll introduce legislation to unseal Congressional records of taxpayer money that was used to pay for sexual harassment settlements. The staffer alleged that Conyers sexually harassed her through inappropriate advances and physical contact.

"I have been one of the loudest and the clearest". The staffer claimed she was sacked because she would not "succumb to [his] sexual advances". Three other staff members provided affidavits to the Office of Compliance outlining a pattern of misbehavior.

Court documents show that another ex-staffer attempted to file a federal lawsuit in Washington alleging sexual harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment. Instead there is the Office of Compliance, which handles complaints from the 30,000 legislative branch employees across the country. Victims are given 180 days to report an incident to the office, after which a lengthy process of counseling, mediation, and mandatory waiting periods ensue.

Currently, an employee who wants to file a formal complaint must first sign a confidentiality agreement. Members of Congress would have to pay out settlements with their own money, and each office would have to publicly disclose how much it has paid out in settlements each year.

"In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so", Conyers said in a statement. His office would "rehire" the woman as a "temporary employee" despite her being directed not to come into the office or do any actual work, according to the document. She was paid $27,000 in salary and then removed from the payroll.

She ultimately chose to go on medical leave because of the stress, and alleges that a staffer stole documents that included a resignation letter and forwarded them to Plowden, the Chief of Staff.

They, plus House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others, urged an ethics investigation that could have the authority to kick Conyers out of office.

Later in the day, the House Ethics Committee announced it had opened an investigation into the allegation.

The outlet also reported a second allegation against Conyers later Tuesday.

"I have always been and continue to be a fierce advocate for equality in the workplace and I fully support the rights of employees who believe they have been harassed or discriminated against to assert claims against their employers", Conyers said.

"I don't condone the conduct if it's true", Sheffield said, also noting the increasing numbers of claims of harassment, sexual misconduct and even rape being made against politicians, Hollywood elites and others.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in a statement that she supports a full review of Congressional sexual harassment policies, procedures and actions to address the issue. In her statement responding to the Conyers story, Pelosi called for Congress to pass the "Me Too" bill in order to "advance equity in all workplaces in America".

"We have to make sure that a complaint is taken seriously". "That's what it is right now in Congress". "And the person who is the victim is not somehow tortured or intimidated into not filing the complaint", Speier said on Sunday.