Summary: Texas Rep. Farenthold supposedly used taxpayer dollars to settle a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment.
Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, a former lawyer at Kleberg Law Firm, used taxpayer funds to end a sexual harassment dispute with his communication director nearly four years ago, according to a report from POLITICO.
The Texas Republican’s former communications director, Lauren Greene, sued Farenthold in December 2014 for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment. Greene claimed another one of his aide’s told her that he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her. He also allegedly “regularly drank to excess,” telling her in February of 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”
Greene complained about the comments Farenthold made along with comments from another male staffer. Farenthold immediately fired her so she filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. The parties were able to reach a settlement so the case was dropped.
During a closed meeting, House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper told GOP lawmakers that only one House office had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint in the past five years. He explained that the settlement was $84,000. Farenthold’s office would not confirm or deny if his office was responsible for the $84,000 payout.
“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.”
Greene’s lawyer, Les Alderman of Alderman, Devorsetz & Hora PLLC, would not comment on anything either. He did, however, provided POLITICO with a joint statement that was prepared when Greene and Farenthold settled. They claim the settlement was reached in order to save taxpayer dollars. The statement read: “After it became clear that further litigating this case would come at great expense to all involved – including the taxpayers – the parties engaged in mediation with a court-appointed mediator. After extensive discussion and consideration, the parties jointly agreed the solution proposed by the mediator. … The parties believe that the mediator’s solution saves the parties, and the taxpayers, significant sums that would be expended in further discovery and/or trial.”
The statement also explains that both paries “deny all liability” and signed a confidentiality agreement. Farenthold “disagrees strongly” with the allegations and “adamantly denies that he engaged in any wrongdoing.”
An investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics did not find “substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against [Greene], or engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against her for opposing such treatment, in violation of House rules and federal law.”
POLITICO recently revealed that $17 million in taxpayer dollars have been paid out secretly to settle workplace disputes. Harper explained that only $360,000 of that involved a House office. Even then, Farenthold and other lawmakers will likely see repercussions seeing as how conservatives want members of such settlements to use their personal money to reimburse the treasury. Farenthold has at least a net worth of $2.4 million.
Farenthold earned his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law. He practiced law for several years after college, including seven years at Kleberg Law Firm in Corpus Christi. He also founded a web design and consulting firm before turning to politics.
Greene started as an intern in 2009 on Capitol Hill and was later promoted to a full time position for ex-Rep. John Sullivan. She started in 2013 to Farenthold’s office. She worked there for 18 months. She also named Farenthold’s top aide, Bob Haueter, in her claims.
Do you think these kinds of settlements should be paid with personal funds and not office accounts funded by taxpayers? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
To learn more about lawyers accused of sexual harassment, read these articles:
- Ross Day, Prominent Oregon Lawyer, Sued by Former Employee for Sexual Harassment
- Attorney Steve Effman Accused of Sexual Misconduct Again
- Multiple Women Accuse Democrat Congressman John Conyers of Sexual Harassment