Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan announced Friday that he will resign immediately after becoming the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation into sexually harassment of a former staffer and using taxpayer money to pay for a settlement. In addition to resigning, Rep. Meehan has agreed to pay back the $39,000 that he took from taxpayers to fund the settlement.
In January, The New York Times reported that Meehan used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her. According to reports, Meehan repeatedly harassed the younger woman and grew hostile towards her when she refused his sexual advances.
After filing a formal complaint, the unidentified staffer began working from home and ultimately left the job. In exchange for her silence, Meehan paid her $39,000 from his congressional office fund.
“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 stated on Friday. “Since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Friday, Meehan wrote, “I recognize that there are constituents who are disappointed in the manner in which I handled the situation that lead to my decision not to seek re-election and wish I had done better by them.”
Rep. Steve Stivers, who heads up the House Republicans’ campaign arm, told USA Today that he respected Meehan’s decision and was “pleased to hear he will pay back the taxpayer money used for his office’s severance payment. We must continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
As a married father of three, Meehan has represented his southeastern Pennsylvania district since 2011. Besides resigning from office, he has agreed to pay $39,000 to the Treasury within 30 days.
Meehan is the second lawmaker this month to announce an abrupt resignation over allegations of sexual harassment. On April 6, former Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold announced his resignation after using taxpayer money to pay a settlement to a former aide who accused him of sexual harassment and other improper conduct.