Disclosed state costs for sexual misconduct claims top $360K
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Records now show all three branches of Pennsylvania state government have settled sexual misconduct allegations since 2010, claims that included unwelcome touching, kissing and lascivious comments.
The running total of disclosed payments to settle claims and investigate complaints over the past eight years now stands at more than $369,000.
New documents obtained by The Associated Press show the Treasury Department paid $7,500 to cover an employee’s legal costs in a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint and agreed to transfer her.
The state Senate disclosed Friday that although it has not been sued or settled any claims for alleged sexual misconduct, it has incurred more than $10,000 in legal bills to investigate such matters since 2010.
The House has acknowledged settling allegations against two Democratic members for $250,000 and $30,000. On Friday, House Democrats also disclosed they paid $19,211 in lawyer fees for work on sexual harassment through a “special leadership account” controlled by Majority Leader Frank Dermody.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said a stenographer was paid $52,000 in 2012 to settle a complaint about a Westmoreland County judge’s behavior.
The public cost of sexual misconduct claims in Pennsylvania is sure to rise, as a deadline looms for the state Office of Administration to respond to a request by The Associated Press for information about the large swath of state government under the governor’s jurisdiction.
The Treasury Department settled a federal lawsuit by an administrative officer who alleged that for several years she had been subject to “unwelcome touching” and “sexually explicit, unwelcome and vulgar overtures” by co-workers. She claimed her supervisor did not stop the misconduct after she complained. As part of the settlement, Treasury agreed to transfer the woman.
The state Senate said it incurred $10,769 in legal bills to a Harrisburg law firm from April 2016 to March 2017 regarding the investigation of sexual harassment or misconduct. No other details were provided.
House Democrats paid $250,000 to a legislative assistant to settle claims involving state Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, although the details of her allegations have not been made public.
Caltagirone said Wednesday he was innocent of any misconduct and would not step down, as called for by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
The settlement agreement released Friday said the House Democratic caucus and Caltagirone denied her allegations. The woman and her lawyer have declined comment.
The $19,211 in legal costs were paid to the same law firm listed on the settlement agreement in the Caltagirone matter as representing the caucus.
The $30,000 payment by House Democrats went to a legislative assistant who had filed a federal lawsuit claiming discrimination against her on the basis of sex and religion.
The woman said in a document attached to the lawsuit that then-Rep. Jewell Williams, a Democrat who is now Philadelphia’s sheriff, subjected her to repeated acts of verbal and physical sexual harassment.
“For example, Rep. Williams would summon me into his office, steer me into a corner and attempt to kiss me,” she told the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
A House Republican spokesman said officials knew of no sexual harassment settlements involving their caucus in at least the past 15 years, if not longer.
The 2012 settlement agreement released by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said it resolved all claims related to the stenographer’s work for the court and Judge Al Bell, who retired in 2014.
The woman told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2012 Bell had ogled her legs and rubbed her shoulders, leered at her and made sexual remarks and suggestions.
Bell told the paper he denied doing “anything in a suggestive manner” and called “most of what she said ... a big nothing.”
The woman’s lawyer did not return a phone message and Bell did not appear to have a listed phone number.