Rep. Blake Farenthold used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by his former communications director, Politico reported Friday.
Farenthold’s former spokesman, Lauren Greene, sued her boss in December 2014, alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
Greene claimed in the suit that another Farenthold aide told her the lawmaker had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her, Politico reported.
Greene also alleged that Farenthold “regularly drank to excess” and divulged to her that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”
When she complained about the alleged misconduct, Farenthold improperly fired her, Greene alleged in the suit. The case was dropped after both parties reached a private settlement.
House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) said in a closed-door meeting Friday that over the past five years, just one House office had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint, in the amount of $ 84,000, according to the Politico report.
Farenthold released a statement Friday, declining to confirm that his office had dug into the congressional account.
“While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question.”
He also reissued a statement released at the time of the settlement in which he denied Greene’s allegations.
“Defendant disagrees strongly with the Plaintiff’s allegations in the Complaint, and Congressman Farenthold adamantly denies that he engaged in any wrongdoing.”
The statement explained the two parties settled so as not to incur great expenses to taxpayers.
“After extensive discussion and consideration, the parties jointly agreed to accept the solution proposed by the mediator. 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.”
Greene had worked for Farenthold for 18 months before he fired her. Greene also alleged that Farenthold’s top aide, Bob Haueter, sexually harassed her-claims he denied.
Her suit alleges that “On June 10, 2014, in response to Haueter’s complaint about [Greene’s] shirt…which Haueter claimed was transparent and showed [Greene’s] nipples, Farenthold told [another woman staffer] that [Greene] could show her nipples whenever she wanted to,” Politico reported.
The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated the claim and said in a letter to the House Ethics Committee that “there is not substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against” Greene.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had spoken to Rep. Farenthold Friday, and released a statement reiterating the contents of the letter.
“The speaker has made clear any report of sexual harassment is deeply troubling, and those who feel mistreated or violated deserve to have their stories taken seriously,” he said.
“In this instance, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics investigated this claim and unanimously voted to dismiss it.”
But still he raised questions about the use of taxpayer money in connection to the Farenthold settlement.
“Still, there are important questions to answer, including the use of taxpayer dollars for settlements. We will continue our efforts to reform this settlement system,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins notably insulted Farenthold during a hot mic moment earlier this year, after the lawmaker challenged her to a duel.
She was overheard saying, “Well, he’s huge, and he-I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive it’s unbelievable.”
She also called attention to a photo of Farenthold posing in his pajamas with a scantily-clad waitress at a 2009 fundraiser.