Farenthold explains decision to repay settlement funds

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - Congressman Blake Farenthold issued a statement Monday regarding the settlement of a 2014 sexual harassment suit filed against, which was paid for with taxpayer money.

Back in 2014, Rep. Blake Farenthold was accused of making sexually charged statements to his communications director at the time, Lauren Greene, who had just been fired. An $84,000 settlement was reached between the two the following year. By law, Farenthold is required to pay that off from the taxpayer fund.

More than $17 million worth of payments have been made over the past 20 years for workplace disputes from that fund, but it's unknown how much of that has been for sexual harassment claims.

The Congressman released the following statement Monday:

“Friday, media outlets began rehashing a 2015 story about a lawsuit that was settled with a former employee of my office. Unfortunately, many of those stories were inaccurate or incomplete.

Despite a finding by the independent, bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics that stated: ‘there is not a substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against Complainant, or engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against Complainant for opposing such treatment, in violation of House rules and federal law.’

As well as a mediated settlement agreement where ‘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 parties’ settlement expressly provides that both parties deny all liability.’

I have agreed to repay the amount of the settlement.

Make no mistake, this repayment is not an admission of guilt. I am making it for several reasons:

  • I believe the current system that requires taxpayers to fund secret settlements must be fixed.
  • I cannot be an effective advocate to fix this problem with people saying I benefited from it.
  • From day one of this lawsuit, I hired a private attorney to represent me and was prepared to settle it without taxpayer funds. But, I was advised by attorneys from the Office of House Employment Counsel that since the lawsuit was filed against ‘the Office of Representative Farenthold,’ not me personally, I could not pay personally to settle the case.

I am also pledging to take a leadership role in reforming an obviously broken system to ensure all employees of Congress can work in an environment free from harassment of any form and ensure that individuals who perpetrate harassment of any kind are exposed and held responsible.”

Farenthold's statement cites a provision in the Congressional Accountability Act that states: "only funds which are appropriated to an account of the Office in the Treasury of the United States for the payment of awards and settlements may be used for the payment of awards and settlements under this chapter. They are appropriated for such account such sums as may be necessary to pay such awards and settlements."

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