Updated Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, 1:30 p.m. EST: Rep. John Conyers has released a full statement “expressly and vehemently” denying allegations of sexual misconduct after a BuzzFeed report found that his office had settled with a former employee who had accused of him of inappropriate advances.
Conyers insisted that “it is important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true.”
Conyers’ full statement reads as follows, per Politico:
I have long been and continue to be a fierce advocate for equality in the workplace and I fully support the rights of employees who believe they have been harassed or discriminated against to assert claims against their employers. That said, it is important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true. The process must be fair to both the employee and the accused. The current media environment is bringing a much-needed focus to the important issue of preventing harassment in workplaces across the country. However, equally important to keep in mind in this particular moment is the principle of due process and that those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until an investigation establishes otherwise. In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process. In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so. My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment. There are statutory requirements of confidentiality that apply to both the employee and me regarding this matter. To the extent the House determines to look further at these issues, I will fully cooperate with an investigation.
The longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), is the latest to be exposed for alleged sexual misconduct, which culminated in a former employee filing a wrongful-dismissal complaint in 2015. The employee claimed that she was fired because she would not “succumb to [Conyers] sexual advances,” but instead of the allegations coming to light, Conyers settled with her for $27,000.
BuzzFeed News spoke to the former employee and independently reviewed and confirmed the authenticity of documents from the complaint.
According to BuzzFeed, the documents include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from several former employees who claim that Conyers was known to constantly make sexual advances to female staff, including requesting sexual favors and touching their hands, legs and backs in public.
In her complaint, the former employee claimed that the congressman insisted that she stay in his room with him as they traveled for a fundraising event. When she refused, he allegedly told her to “just cuddle up with me and caress me before you go.”
“Rep. Conyers strongly postulated that the performing of personal service or favors would be looked upon favorably and lead to salary increases or promotions,” the woman stated in documents, according to BuzzFeed.
She claimed that on one occasion, Conyers even explicitly told her that she needed to “touch it,” referring to his genitals.
Other staffers also accused Conyers of using congressional resources to transport women with whom he was having affairs.
Two staffers alleged in their signed affidavits that Conyers used congressional resources to fly in women they believed he was having affairs with. Another said she was tasked with driving women to and from Conyers’ apartment and hotel rooms.
This news comes to light after it was widely reported that the government has paid more than $17 million in taxpayer money over the last 20 years to “resolve” claims of sexual harassment and other workplace violations that are filed by congressional employees.
Congress has no human resources department. Instead, congressional employees have 180 days to report a sexual harassment incident to the Office of Compliance, which then leads to a lengthy process that involves counseling and mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.
After this an employee can choose to take the matter to federal district court, but another avenue is available: an administrative hearing, after which a negotiation and settlement may follow.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told BuzzFeed that she did not know about the settlements but said it brings up the issue of the signing of nondisclosure agreements.
“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms,” Pelosi said in the statement. “I strongly support her efforts.”
Conyers, for his part, responded to the Associated Press about the allegations, saying that he knows nothing about the claims, the newswire tweeted:
Read more at BuzzFeed.