A report released Friday showed that taxpayer dollars were used to pay a settlement in a sexual harassment case made against Congressman Blake Farenthold, who represents the Coastal Bend area.
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.
On Friday, it was revealed that the money came from taxpayers, and it was perfectly legal due to a "congressional accountability act," according to Mike Bergsma, head of the Nueces County Republican Party.
The law has come under scrutiny recently following other allegations made against members of Congress. According to Bergsma, the way the law is set up to handle settlements needs to be changed.
"I don't like how the government money goes toward settling these cases," Bergsma said.
Bergsma recalled when the Farenthold case first came to light two years ago and why it was settled the way it was.
"The congressman took the issue to the ethics committee in the House and by a vote of six to nothing, they ruled in his favor," Bergsma said.
Bergsma said since the story broke, he has found out more about how the settlement process works in Congress.
"When someone sues the congressman, they're really suing the House of Representatives. It's like suing an employee of a corporation, and they cannot use their own funds to settle a case, and the House lawyers said it's cheaper to settle than to go to trial," Bergsma said.
In a congressional report, lawyers representing both sides agreed settling the case would cost taxpayers much less than going to trial.
Bergsma said many in Congress don't like the settlement system and understands voters probably do not agree with it either.
"But that's the system that's there and they need to revamp it," Bergsma said. "I am in favor of changing how it's been."
Bergsma said the issue of how the settlement system works is new to him and he'll have to do more research. In the meantime, the message Bergsma said constituents should know is this:
"Anybody can sue anybody," Bergsma said. "So he gets sued and he used the ruling of the ethics commission to show that he was blameless in this occurrence."
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