Meehan faces sexual harassment charge; booted from House Ethics Committee

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7)

U.S Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7) is alleged to have sexually harassed a junior staffer and paid a settlement to her out of tax money, according to a detailed report in The New York Times, published Saturday.

Speaker of the U.S. House Paul Ryan moved late Saturday to remove Meehan from the House Ethics Committee and said through a spokesman that an ethics investigation into Meehan, who represents a large swath of Chester County, would begin.

According to the NYT story which cited 10 sources, Meehan — a married father of three — expressed romantic feelings for this much younger, female staffer in person and in writing and allegedly became hostile when he was rebuffed. A settlement was reached, apparently, with funds from Meehan’s office budget, along with a confidentiality agreement.

Meehan, though a spokesman, denied the allegations — and called for the confidentially agreement between he and the former staffer to be waived to allow for full disclosure.

Area Democrats — including three of Meehan’s rivals for the congressional seat in 2018 — were deeply critical of the third-term Republican, including some who called on him to resign.

“It’s time for Congressman Meehan to do what is right not only for himself but for the voters of the 7th Congressional District and resign,” said Brian J. McGinnis, Chair of the Chester County Democratic Committee. “Sexually harassing a co-worker and using tax payer funds as a settlement proves he is no longer fit for office.”

Elizabeth Moro, a Democratic candidate from Kennett Square, took time off from participating in the Womens’ March in Philadelphia to offer comment on the situation:

“Today I joined with countless women across the country to demand equal treatment and speak out against sexual harassment,” Moro said in a statement. “While we united, it was revealed that Rep. Meehan — a member of the House Ethics Committee — used his position of power to sexually harass a member of his staff and then employed public funds to be used as hush money in a settlement. Pat Meehan felt that taxpayer dollars weren’t needed to provide essential healthcare to women, including young girls who rely on CHIP, but they were needed to try and silence a victim of his sexual misconduct. This is the culture we marched against today.”

Drew McGinty, another Democratic candidate for the 7th, called on Meehan to resign.

“Patrick Meehan’s secretive settlement is just another example of Washington’s incompetence when handling issues related to sexual misconduct,” McGinty said in a statement. “Meehan was voted in to advocate for the best interests of the 7th district, but instead used his power to personally and financially attack a staffer. His actions are appalling and today I am calling on Meehan to immediately resign from Congress.”

Dan Muroff, another 7th candidate was far more blunt:

“What the hell, Pat Meehan?” Muroff said in a statement. “Sexually harassing your staff and paying a settlement with taxpayer money? I am calling on Congressman Meehan to resign effective immediately. If he refuses to resign, House leadership must strip him of his committee assignments.

“That he was allowed to remain a member of the House Ethics Committee while working to settle his own sexual harassment claims, with taxpayer money, demonstrates a stunning lack of personal ethics and is an absolute disgrace.”

Although Meehan, a former U.S. Attorney, was seen as facing a challenge in the 2018 race, his large cash reserves would likely have made him a tough incumbent to beat. But, much as happened with one of his 7th District predecessors — U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon in 2006 — a scandal could imperil the seat. Weldon was hit with allegations he had ties to two Russian companies as part of an alleged effort to help his daughter’s lobbying business. While no charges were ever filed by the U.S. Justice Department, the accusations are thought to have played a role in his loss to Joe Sestak.

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