Ethics Panel Chides Lawmaker Over Handling of Alleged Harasser

(Bloomberg) -- The House Ethics Committee says it’s issuing a letter of “reproval” against House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows for his handling of sexual harassment complaints by staffers starting in 2013 against Kenny West, his then-chief of staff.

“Representative Meadows could have and should have done more to ensure that his congressional office was free from discrimination or the perception of discrimination,” the committee said in a report released Friday.

West was reassigned by Meadows but the Republican lawmaker continued to pay him at his full salary for another two months. West also received official mileage reimbursement during that time period. The committee is ordering Meadows, an ally of President Donald Trump, to reimburse those funds to the Treasury Department.

“While Representative Meadows did take some important immediate steps after learning of the allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. West, he did not do enough to address the allegations or to prevent potential further harassment or retaliation,” the report said.

“The Committee is conscious of the current climate, as the nation seeks a more full-throated societal condemnation of sexual harassment than what has been the norm of past generations. As representatives of the people, the House should be a leader in this national conversation,” said the report.

In the House, a letter of reproval is an administrative action by the Ethics Committee that’s issued as part of a public report to the House on an investigation that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has undertaken.

The letter may be sent by the committee of its own accord by a majority vote, without any approval or action by the full House.

“Three years ago I asked the Committee on Ethics to review the matter surrounding the alleged conduct of my former chief of staff, Mr. West, and I’m thankful their review has now concluded,” Meadows said in a statement. “I appreciate the Committee’s acknowledgment of the immediate, appropriate, and good faith steps I did take after learning of my staff’s concerns.”

The committee also issued a letter of reproval against Representative Ruben Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, over sexual harassment claims. It said that a nine-month investigation found that Kihuen “made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities.”

Kihuen did not seek re-election this year.

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