House Speaker Paul Ryan called for an Ethics Committee investigation Saturday after the New York Times reported that US Rep. Patrick Meehan used taxpayer money to settle a complaint that stemmed from his hostility toward a former aide who rejected his romantic overtures. The story cited unnamed people who said the Republican Pennsylvania representative used thousands of dollars from his congressional office fund to settle the sexual harassment complaint the ex-aide filed last summer to the congressional Office of Compliance. Ryan's spokeswoman said the allegations must be investigated "fully and immediately" by the House Ethics Committee and that Meehan would immediately submit himself to the committee's review. Meehan is being removed from his position on the committee, and Ryan told Meehan that he should repay any taxpayer funds used to settle, reports the AP.
In a statement, the four-term congressman's office denied that Meehan sexually harassed or mistreated the ex-aide. It also said Meehan had asked congressional lawyers who handled the case to ask the ex-aide's lawyer to dissolve the settlement's confidentiality requirements "to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts." "Throughout his career he has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism," Meehan's office said. The accuser's lawyer, Alexis Ronickher, called the allegations "well-grounded" and rejected the idea of doing away with confidentiality. Meehan is trying to victimize her client twice by revealing the woman's identity and litigating the case in the media, Ronickher said. "Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately," Meehan's office said.