Reports: Farenthold Is Lawmaker Behind $84K Sex Harassment Settlement

Bill Clark/CQPHO

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was the lawmaker behind a $84,000 taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlement with a former staffer, Politico reported Friday.

The settlement was paid to his former communications director, Lauren Greene, who sued Farenthold in 2014 over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, Politico reported, citing a lawsuit and unnamed sources. NBC News also confirmed the report.

TPM reported on that lawsuit after it was filed December 2014.

Greene said she was fired after complaining about Farenthold and one of his male staffers, who told her that the congressman had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her. She also claimed that Farenthold drank too much and told her inappropriate things about his sex life with his wife.

The suit was dropped after Farenthold and Greene agreed to settle, according to a joint statement that the two wrote at the time, but was never released.

In a closed-door meeting with GOP lawmakers Friday, House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS) said that the Office of Compliance had only paid out a settlement for one sexual harassment complaint in the past five years, at the cost of $84,000, Politico reported.

Neither Farenthold nor Greene’s attorney would confirm or deny they were the parties involved in the $84,000 Office of Compliance settlement, but Greene’s lawyer and Farenthold’s office both shared the joint statement. The statement said the two confirmed they had reached a deal, partially to save taxpayer dollars. Farenthold said the settlement wasn’t indicative of an admission of guilt.

Farenthold “disagrees strongly” with Greene’s claims and “adamantly denies that he engaged in any wrongdoing,” the statement said. It also said that the two parties couldn’t discuss the agreement.

Farenthold also formally denied the allegations in the lawsuit in February 2015, TPM reported at the time.

The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated the allegations against Farenthold as well, but found that Greene’s complaints were unsubstantiated, according to Politico.

“While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question,” Farenthold said Friday in the statement.

Farenthold’s settlement with a former staffer is the second publicly known sexual harassment complaint agreement that the Office of Compliance paid on behalf of a member of Congress. ABC News reported Thursday that that same office paid a $100,000 settlement to staffers of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) to settle groping allegations against the congressman.

The Office of Compliance has come under fire in recent weeks after news broke that it had secretly paid more than $17 million in settlements over the past 20 years over misconduct complaints against members of Congress. It’s not known — besides the Massa and Farenthold cases — how many cases were sexual harassment claims.

The House Ethics Committee sent a letter to the Office of Compliance on Friday asking for the records of all alleged misconduct claims made against sitting members or employees of the House.    

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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