In the wake of media reporting on millions of dollars paid for more than 250 settlements to federal employees, Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick has called for an investigation into the matter.
Fitzpatrick’s call for an investigation followed the Washington Post’s reporting that Congress has made 264 settlements with Capitol Hill employees for various infractions, including sexual harassment. The newspaper said the settlements totaled $17 million over 20 years.
In a statement the congressman said:
“It’s unbelievable – and unacceptable – that elected officials have been using taxpayer dollars to cover up sexual harassment suits for years. As if the American people needed another example of politicians playing by a different set of rules, this is an affront to the hardworking taxpayers forced to foot the bill for these heinous actions. I’m calling on the House Ethics Committee to fully investigate this misuse of taxpayer funds and will work with any member of Congress to prevent this type of abuse. Moreover, this Congress must stand with the victims of this harassment and take swift action to root out those who would sexually harass any other person, regardless of position or title.”
The investigation the congressman is calling for would be handled by the House Committee on Ethics, which enforces standards of ethics and behaviors. The bipartisan committee can forward suggestions on actions that can be taken against members of congress if they are found to have violated standards.
Since the Washington Post’s reporting on the settlements, BuzzFeed News broke the story that Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan settled a complaint using funds from his office budget in 2015. The former employee said she lost her job after not falling for his sexual advances.
Despite calls for a list of settlements to be released, officials have not provided that information.
Fitzpatrick’s office noted that the first-term legislator is a co-sponsor of the Me Too Congress Act that would “set definitive criteria to address sexual harassment in all national legislative branch offices.”