Staff claimed he flew in women he was having affairs with using taxpayer money.
BuzzFeed has reported that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the longest serving member in the House and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint with a former female employee after she alleged he fired her for dismissing his sexual advances in 2015.
She’s not the only one he sexually harassed:
Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.
Allegations Against Conyers
In her complaint, the former employee said Conyers repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and often asked her to join him in a hotel room. On one occasion, she alleges that Conyers asked her to work out of his room for the evening, but when she arrived the congressman started talking about his sexual desires. She alleged he then told her she needed to “touch it,” in reference to his penis, or find him a woman who would meet his sexual demands.
She alleged Conyers made her work nights, evenings, and holidays to keep him company.
In another incident, the former employee alleged the congressman insisted she stay in his room while they traveled together for a fundraising event. When she told him that she would not stay with him, she alleged he told her to “just cuddle up with me and caress me before you go.”
“Rep. Conyers strongly postulated that the performing of personal service or favors would be looked upon favorably and lead to salary increases or promotions,” the former employee said in the documents.
She’s not the only one he sexually harassed. One employee claimed that as she drove Conyers around in her car, she kept her hand on the stick shift. He “reached over and began to caress my hand in a sexual manner.” She also said in the affidavit that she was “personally aware of several women who have experienced the same or similar sexual advances made towards them by Rep[.] John Conyers.”
Even a male staffer witnessed Conyers inappropriate behavior like rubbing “the legs and other parts” of the woman he settled with “in what appeared to be a sexual manner.” He confronted Conyers, who promised the male staffer he would change his ways.
Another woman had the job of flying women to D.C. for Conyers:
“One of my duties while working for Rep. Conyers was to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using Congressional resources,” said her affidavit. (A second staffer alleged in an interview that Conyers used taxpayer resources to fly women to him.)
One female employee had to drive these women to his apartment or hotel rooms.
The Settlement & Fear in Conyers’ Office
The woman spoke to BuzzFeed and she said that the process through the Office of Compliance made her feel “that she had no option other than to stay quiet and accept a settlement offered to her.” She said they “basically blackballed” her and left her with nowhere to go.
The long process ended with her signing “a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a $27,111.75 settlement” that “came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.” Yes, taxpayers paid for the settlement. And it wasn’t that simple:
His office would “rehire” the woman as a “temporary employee” despite her being directed not to come into the office or do any actual work, according to the document. The complainant would receive a total payment of $27,111.75 over the three months, after which point she would be removed from the payroll, according to the document.
A former employee told BuzzFeed that people feared speaking out against Conyers because of his reputation. His power within Congress is one thing, but he is also “a civil rights icon,” once admired by Martin Luther King, Jr., and helped found the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Grueling Process
The Washington Post recently reported that “Congress’ Office of Compliance has paid more than $17 million for 264 settlements and awards to federal employees for violations of various employment rules” since 1997. This includes sexual harassment.
Without a human resources department, an employee must report sexual harassment to the Office of Compliance within 180 days. This will lead “to a lengthy process involves counseling, mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.”
Once that ends, the employee may opt to take the case to federal district court or it can go to “an administrative hearing, after which a negotiation and settlement may follow.”
Matthew Peterson, the law clerk that represented the woman and “listed as a signatory,” also spoke to BuzzFeed:
The process was “disgusting,” said Matthew Peterson, who worked as a law clerk representing the complainant, and who listed as a signatory to some of the documents.
“It is a designed cover-up,” said Peterson, who declined to discuss details of the case but agreed to characterize it in general terms. “You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It’s like being abused twice.”
No one else spoke to BuzzFeed. The Office of Compliance said they cannot make comments on such matters.
First off, we need names in the WaPo article from last week. TRANSPARENCY. These are our tax dollars.
Democrat Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation to change this process. She even called the Office of Compliance an enabler on CBS’ Face the Nation:
“We have a system in place that allows for the harasser to go unchecked. Doesn’t pay for the settlement himself and is never identified. So the Office of Compliance, to which a victim must apply or complain, is a place that has really been an enabler of sexual harassment for these many years because of the way it’s constructed,” said Speier, D-California, on “Face the Nation.”
“We have to make sure that a complaint is taken seriously. And the person who is the victim is not somehow tortured or intimidated into not filing the complaint,” she said on Sunday. “That’s what it is right now in Congress. There’s a one month period where you’re counseled. There’s another month where you go through mandatory mediation and you have to sign a non disclosure agreement at the front end.”
“And then you have a month of cooling off period,” she said. “I mean, that is truly ridiculous.”
BuzzFeed Got This Info From…Mike Cernovich
Yes, that Mike Cernovich, the man who bounces around conspiracy theories like Pizzagate:
Cernovich said he gave the documents to BuzzFeed News for vetting and further reporting, and because he said if he published them himself, Democrats and congressional leaders would “try to discredit the story by attacking the messenger.” He provided them without conditions. BuzzFeed News independently confirmed the authenticity of the documents with four people directly involved with the case, including the accuser.
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