- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Arizona Republican Party demanded Tuesday that Rep. Raul Grijalva explain the behavior that led to him approving a nearly $50,000 payout in 2015 to a former top female employee who complained of the congressman’s alleged drunken behavior and a hostile workplace.

The “severance package,” reported by The Washington Times, revealed yet another way that lawmakers use taxpayer dollars to hush up their misbehavior on Capitol Hill.

“These allegations absolutely need to be investigated and Representative Grijalva owes his constituents an immediate explanation in regards to his behavior,” said Torunn Sinclair, spokeswoman for the Arizona GOP. “If Representative Grijalva was drunk at the office, taxpayers should not be paying to cover up his irresponsibility.”

Mr. Grijalva acknowledged to The Times last week that he negotiated the settlement through the House Employment Counsel but refused to discuss details, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Arizona reporters picked up the story and asked Mr. Grijalva about the arrangement, and he provided them with a statement admitting to the payout but disputing The Times’ handling, calling the article “misleading” and an attempt “to link me to sexual harassment complaints made against other people.”

“The fact is that an employee and I, working with the House Employment Counsel, mutually agreed on terms for a severance package, including an agreement that neither of us would talk about it publicly. The terms were consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance. The severance funds came out of my committee operating budget. Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately,” he said. “The journalistic standards at the Washington Times are lax and the paper owes me an apology.”

Neither Mr. Grijalva nor his office contacted The Times in the wake of the story.

But last week his office, beyond sending a statement, didn’t respond to questions about what justified the hefty payment of $48,395, or five months’ additional pay for time never worked. The staffer, who then dropped her hostile workplace complaint, left after just three months on the job.

Ethics watchdogs said Mr. Grijalva’s use of the Employment Counsel’s office to hush the complaint was similar to the way lawmakers have used the Office of Compliance to make payouts in sexual harassment cases.

The arrangement appears to run contrary to House rules that constrain severance packages, and it caught the eye of watchdogs who were already demanding answers about payouts in the wake of harassment complaints.

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