The allegations of sexual misconduct by Congressman Blake Farenthold will be examined by the U.S. House Ethics Committee, two years after a congressional probe cleared the four-term Republican from Corpus Christi.
Farenthold, who is seeking re-election next year, was sued in federal court by his former communications director on grounds that he and a senior staffer made unwanted advances and created a toxic, sexually charged work environment. The suit was settled for $84,000 paid by taxpayers, it was learned last week.
"Over the last two weeks, more information has been disclosed about the nature of the settlement between the parties," the committee's two top members, Republican Susan Brooks of Indiana and Democrat Ted Deutch of Florida, said in a statement. "In addition, both Representative Farenthold and the Complainant have publicly expressed an interest in increased transparency in this matter."
"In light of these developments, the Committee has determined that it is appropriate to establish an Investigative Subcommittee to continue its investigation."
The committee would like to obtain testimony from Lauren Greene, the former aide who brought the suit in 2014 after being fired by Farenthold. Her lawyer, Leslie Alderman of Washington, D.C., told Politico his client was considering the request.
In interviews since the terms of the once-confidential settlement became public, Greene said that her career as a congressional staff member has ground to a halt.
Farenthold has consistently maintained that he did nothing untoward in the matter and has called Greene a disgruntled former employee.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, which is not affiliated with the House ethics panel, has investigated the matter and recommended that the committee dismiss the allegations against Farenthold.
Specifically, the ethics committee is seeking "to determine whether Representative Blake Farenthold violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standards of conduct in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities," according to the statement.
The ethics committee said Farenthold is cooperating with the investigation. But Brooks, the committee's chairwoman, and ranking Democrat Deutch said more information is needed.
"During the Committee’s investigation to date, the Committee has issued requests for information, reviewed over 200,000 pages of materials, and interviewed multiple witnesses," they said.