Tags: blake farenthold | ethics probe | settlement

Blake Farenthold to Face Ethics Probe After 2015 Settlement

Image: Blake Farenthold to Face Ethics Probe After 2015 Settlement
(Bill Clark/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 07 Dec 2017 08:45 PM

The House Ethics Committee said Thursday that it would investigate Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold for sexual-assault allegations in 2014 that led to an $84,000 settlement with a former staffer that was paid for by taxpayer money.

The panel said in a statement that new evidence in the case, which was first reviewed in 2015, warranted an investigation — and that it sought to interview Farenthold's accuser, former communications director Lauren Greene.

Its inquiry would focus on whether Farenthold, 55, had "sexually harassed a former member of his staff, discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, and retaliated against her for complaining of discriminatory conduct."

The inquiry also would concern "allegations that Representative Farenthold made inappropriate statements to other members of his official staff."

The committee is chaired by Republican Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana. The panel's top Democrat is Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida.

In 2015, Farenthold, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, reached a settlement with Greene regarding an allegation filed in federal court.

The funds were paid for the Office of Compliance in Congress, whose budget is financed via the Treasury Department through the budget appropriations process.

The settlement was reported last week by several news outlets — and Farenthold told a local television news station Monday that he would pay back the money.

"I want to be clear, I didn't do anything wrong," he told KRIS 6 News in Corpus Christi, "but I also don't want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this."

The Office of Congressional Ethics found insufficient basis to recommend an ethics inquiry against Farenthold on Greene's allegations.

She had accused the congressman of making sexually suggestive comments to her, and said he had told another aide he had sexual fantasies about Greene, according to news reports.

Greene alleged that she was fired in July 2014 after complaining to Farenthold about being "bullied" by his chief of staff.

Farenthold had denied the allegations, maintaining in the court proceeding that Greene was fired for poor performance, according to reports.

The Ethics Committee also disclosed a probe into Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Franks, who abruptly said Thursday that he was quitting next month after revealing that he discussed surrogacy with two female staffers.

Franks, 60, an eight-term congressman, is a staunch conservative and fierce opponent of abortion.

He said in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff.

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The House Ethics Committee said Thursday that it would investigate Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold for sexual-assault allegations in 2014 that led to an $84,000 settlement with a former staffer that was paid for by taxpayer money.
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Thursday, 07 Dec 2017 08:45 PM
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