National News

Pennsylvania Congressman Who Settled Harassment Case Resigns Amid Ethics Inquiry

Posted April 27, 2018 7:17 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2018 7:18 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Rep. Patrick Meehan, the Pennsylvania Republican whose sexual harassment settlement had already prompted his retirement, abruptly resigned Friday from the House, becoming the latest in a series of lawmakers to leave Congress because of sexual misconduct allegations.

Meehan, 62, had said in January that he would not seek re-election after a report by The New York Times that he had used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint brought by a former aide decades his junior.

Meehan, who was first elected to the House in 2010, had been facing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

“While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry,” Meehan said in a statement Friday. “And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”

In addition, Meehan said he would pay $39,000 to the Treasury to reimburse the cost of what he described as a “severance payment” that had been made from his office account. He said the reimbursement would be made within 30 days of his resignation from the House.

“I did not want to leave with any question of violating the trust of taxpayers,” Meehan said.

But Debra S. Katz, a lawyer for the former aide he had settled with, criticized Meehan for resigning in the midst of the Ethics Committee investigation.

“My client cooperated fully with the ethics probe, testifying for hours and providing documentary evidence to the committee,” Katz said. “Instead of facing the music, Rep. Meehan resigned today to halt the Ethics Committee’s work. This is the coward’s way out, and he has denied my client the legal vindication she deserves.”

Meehan faced pressure to step down after The Times reported in January that the former aide had filed a complaint against him last year, and that Meehan had used funds from his congressional office to pay her thousands of dollars to settle it.

The former aide had accused Meehan of making unwanted romantic overtures to her after she became involved in a serious relationship. Meehan grew hostile after she rebuffed him, the former aide said, according to people familiar with her claim.

In an interview with The Times in January, Meehan denied harassing the aide and said she had “specifically invited” his intimate communications.

Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania will schedule a special election for Meehan’s seat, with the winning candidate serving the balance of his term.

Regardless, there is little expectation that a Republican will occupy Meehan’s seat this time next year. A new congressional map has been put in place in Pennsylvania and will be used in November’s midterm elections, and the seat is solidly Democratic under the new district boundaries.