Sexual harassment settlement total in Congress grows to $199K

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December 19, 2017

The front of the U.S Capitol Building in Washington, DC on Dec. 1, 2017.The front of the U.S Capitol Building in Washington, DC on Dec. 1, 2017. – NBCU News Group

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New details released Tuesday show that taxpayers paid for an additional $115,000 in claims for sexual harassment complaints between 2008 and 2012, adding more information to the growing amount of such claims on Capitol Hill.

The latest information was given to Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, by the Office of Compliance. The OOC, the office where victims file complaints, released information for five more years than what had already been made public. The new details were being shared with the rest of the Republican House conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning.

Adding to details of a previously disclosed claim of $84,000 that was settled between 2013 and 2017, the new figures bring the total of sexual harassment settlements through the office to $199,000 since 2008. That earlier settlement was for a complaint against Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who has subsequently announced he will not seek reelection.

But the release of information on such claims and settlements has been piecemeal in Congress. In the Senate, the OOC refused to release information on settlements to Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who requested the amount of sexual harassment claims filed and how much was settled.

The new numbers were released as part of an effort by Harper's committee to better get a handle on sexual harassment in the halls of Congress. The committee is set to unveil bipartisan legislation this week to reform the system that is tilted to protect the accused over the victims.

The information does not include the names of the victims or the accused and it does not include other ways members of Congress can settle claims, including with their individual Congressional fund, which is how Rep. John Conyers settled a $27,000 sexual harassment complaint.

"As I have stated from the beginning of this review, one case of sexual harassment is one too many. We must create a culture within our Capitol Hill community that instills in every employee and employer, new and old, that there is no place for sexual harassment in the halls of Congress," Harper said in a statement.

Harper said he intends to obtain the information for years 1997 to 2007 as well.

In the Senate, a response Monday provided to NBC News by Kaine's office, the OOC said it was unable to release the information, citing a number of reasons that included confidentiality requirements.

"Earlier this month the OOC provided the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with a statistical breakdown of settlement amounts involving Senate employing offices from 1997-2017. That information represents the full extent of what we can provide with regard to settlements under the CAA involving the Senate," Grundmann wrote. "Any additional disclosure would involve an invasive search of strictly confidential records, which would be contrary to existing law."


Courtesy/Source: NBC News

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