CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - A panel of two Republicans and two Democrats will examine whether U.S. Rep Blake Farenthold violated the House code of conduct or any laws in connection with the allegations of sexual harassment that were brought in a now-settled federal lawsuit filed by a former aide.
The House Ethics Committee appointed the subcommittee Wednesday afternoon, but did not say when its work would begin or how long it was expected to take to determine whether any action is warranted against the four-term congressman.
No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules.
Meanwhile, another former Farenthold aide told CNN on Wednesday that he has approached the ethics panel to assist in the investigation because he had been the subject of on the job abuse.
Michael Rekola told the cable network that Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, had made crude and sexually inappropriate remarks about his fiancee and would subject him and other staffers with fits of anger and rage.
"I was disgusted and I left. I walked out," Rekola told the network, adding that he gave two-weeks notice after his wedding.
Contacted by CNN, Farenthold denied making the sexual-charged comments, but did acknowledge calling aides vulgar names. He said it was meant as a joke.
"In hindsight, I admit it wasn't appropriate," Farenthold told the network.
Two of the subcommittee that will investigate the matter are women and two are men. The panel will be chaired by U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-New Jersey. Joining him will be Democrats Anthony Brown of Maryland and Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and Republican Ann Wagner of Missouri.
After the lawsuit brought by former Farenthold communications director Lauren Greene was settled in 2015 with a payment of $84,000 in federal funds, the Office of Congressional Ethics found no "substantial reason to believe" the congressman had harassed Greene. At the time it recommended that the House Ethics Committee drop the matter.
However, in light of recent allegations that other members of Congress had engaged in improper sexual conduct and after it was disclosed that the suit against Farenthold was settled with public funds, the ethics panel last week decided to reopen the matter.
Farenthold, who has steadfastly insisted that he had done nothing wrong, has said he plans to repay the treasury for the settlement.
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