A secretive, multi-million dollar slush fund was used to settle a claim brought against New York Rep. Gregory Meeks.
According to the NY Post, back in 2006, Meeks settled for an undisclosed amount with a female staffer. The congressman purportedly fired her after she sued one of Meeks’ campaign donors for sexual harassment.
Unlike recent news articles and revelations, the amount received by the staffer was never made public. But, as noted by the Post, the settlement was funded by the Congressional Office of Compliance. Set up in 1995 to resolve labor and other disputes against lawmakers, the Office is notoriously secretive.
Since the beginning of the year, the Office, along with many legislators, came under fire for its complicity in bailing out sexist senators and state representatives.
Over the course of the past two decades, the Congressional Office of Compliance has spent $22 million settling disputes between Washington politicians and their staffers. Many of the cases involved allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
Among several of the examples given by the NY Post is that of Blake Farenthold, whose case was detailed by LegalReader earlier in the month.
The Texas Republican withdrew some $84,000 from the slush fund to ward off the advances he’d made toward former communications director Laura Greene. After escalating her complaint within Congress – and eventually receiving a small settlement – Greene says her career was effectively “blackballed.”
Last week, as the story received ever-more attention, Farenthold said he’d resign. The representative also promised to pay back the Office of Compliance dollars redirected to Laura Greene.
Now, Rep. Meeks is the latest name to have come out in relation to a purportedly immoral use of Office of Compliance funds.
The New York politician paid out an undisclosed sum to former staffer Andrea Payne, who’d work in his office from 1998 through 2000.
Payne had filed a separate suit against Flowers Physical Therapy, a Queens, NY, clinic, claiming that a massage therapist had sexually abused her. However, business owners Joan and Neville Flowers were longtime campaign fundraisers for Rep. Meeks.
Word of the lawsuit apparently made its way back to Meeks’ office.
After the litigation was initiated, Payne says she was mistreated at work. Court papers claim she was forced to work excessive overtime without pay and was refused reimbursement for office expenses. Moreover, she was allegedly subjected to “verbally abusive language,” before eventually being fired by Meeks himself.
Later on, Rep. Meeks said his staffer had, in fact, resigned – making it impossible for her to collect unemployment benefits while seeking a new position.
Following a complaint to the Congressional Office of Compliance and a five-year battle in federal court, Payne was awarded an undisclosed sum, paid on behalf of Meeks by the COC.
A spokesperson for Meeks attempted to clarify that this case – unlike many others from past months – is not about sexual harassment.
“This was absolutely not a sexual harassment or sexual assault case,” said the spokesperson. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false, and an egregious attempt to mislead.”