House Speaker Paul Ryan has ordered an ethics investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan after a report Saturday that Meehan used taxpayer funds to settle a harassment complaint.
According to The New York Times, the 62-year-old Republican congressman confidentially settled a misconduct complaint filed by a much younger former staffer, paid from Meehan's congressional office fund.
The Times reports:
"Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.
"Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan's office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan's congressional office fund."
A spokesman for Rep. Meehan denies the allegations. The congressman has asked the former aide to waive the confidentiality agreement in order to "ensure a full and open airing of all the facts."
Meehan had been a member of the House Ethics Committee, a group charged with investigating several recent sexual harassment allegations against congressmen, but has been asked by Ryan to step down from the committee effective immediately.
NPR's Brakkton Booker reports that the speaker has also told Meehan to repay the taxpayer funds.
The Republican congressman, who has been targeted by Democrats in the 2018 elections, is viewed as vulnerable since his district was carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.
However, one of the leading Democrats in that district, State Sen. Daylin Leach, has suspended his campaign after facing his own sexual harassment allegations.