- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2017

Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out a settlement on one sexual harassment complaint over the past five years, costing taxpayers $84,000, according to data released Friday.

All told, from 2013 through today the office’s Awards and Settlement Fund paid out claims against six members of Congress totaling more than $350,000 with sex discrimination playing a role in two of them — and just one involving allegations of sexual harassment.

The numbers suggest that while the office is used to pay out and hush up some harassment and discrimination issues, the scope is not as widespread as initial reports had indicated.

The Office of Compliance released the information to the House Administration Committee, which is supposed to oversee the payments.

“First and foremost, there is no place for sexual harassment in our society, and especially in Congress, and one case of sexual harassment is one case too many,” said Rep. Gregg Harper, chairman of the House Administration Committee.

The new data didn’t report on the names of the lawmakers who faced the complaints.

They are just a small fraction of the $17 million in payouts made by the compliance fund over the last 20 years. Mr. Harper said information from before 2013 is still to come.

The compliance fund has taken on outsized proportions in recent days as lawmakers have questioned its use in covering up allegations of harassment, as part of the new national debate over bad behavior.

But it’s become clear the fund is just one method — and perhaps not a very common one — for lawmakers to quietly deal with complaints.

The Washington Times reported earlier this week on Rep. Raul Grijalva’s use of his official account to pay a “severance package” of nearly $50,000 to an employee who’d worked for him for just three months. The employee had complained of a hostile workplace and repeated drunken behavior from Mr. Grijalva.

He stressed to The Times there was no sexual harassment allegation involved, and said he made the payment on the advice of the Employment Counsel’s office.

In an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star Friday he disputed the allegations of a hostile work environment and drunken behavior.

“As I have now had to make clear to multiple news outlets, I do not work while drunk and have never had a hostile workplace environment,” he wrote. “While I have no wish to drag current or former employees into this, I invite reporters to find any corroboration for these claims. They will be hard pressed. I am proud of the welcoming and professional environment I have always worked hard to create.”

He also said he has asked for the confidentiality agreement to be lifted so the details of the employee’s departure can be made public.

BuzzFeed also reported recently that Rep. John Conyers Jr. used his official taxpayer-funded account to pay a settlement to an employee who accused him of sexual harassment.

The six complaints against members of Congress that were settled by the compliance fund included the $84,000 sexual harassment allegation; a $76,000 payment in an age discrimination case; $7,000 in a sex, religion and fair labor standards case; $37,250 for a disability discrimination complaint, $5,200 in a race and military discrimination case and one veteran discrimination complaint that settled for $150,000.

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