Ruben Kihuen, Mark Meadows cited in sexual harassment misconduct probes
The House ethics committee on Friday sanctioned Rep. Ruben Kihuen, saying he harassed several women, and Rep. Mark Meadows, saying he mishandled harassment allegations against his chief of staff.
In the case of Mr. Kihuen, a Nevada Democrat, several employees and a lobbyist said he touched them and made inappropriate comments and the committee substantiated those complaints.
He didn’t seek re-election and won’t return to Congress next year.
Mr. Meadows’ case was more drawn-out.
The ethics committee said he broke House rules by mishandling harassment allegations against his onetime chief of staff, Kenny West, and the panel ordered him to refund more than $40,000 in salary the wrongly paid to the aide.
After female staffers accused Mr. West of harassment Mr. Meadows sought his own independent investigation, then ignored those findings to keep Mr. West on staff though he restricted Mr. West’s interactions with female staffers.
Mr. Meadows reassigned Mr. West in April 2015 to another post but kept him at the same salary until he was finally let go in August of that year, investigators said. They said they couldn’t find evidence Mr. West performed work that merited the salary.
The ethics committee also questioned Mr. Meadows’ original solution of restricting Mr. West’s interactions with female staffers, saying that in itself could have been discrimination against the women who no longer have access to the office chief of staff.
“Representative Meadows could have and should have done more to ensure that his congressional office was free from discrimination or the perception of discrimination,” lawmakers said in their report.
He was given a “reproval” and ordered to pay back $40,625.02 to the government, which investigators calculated as the salary Mr. West shouldn’t have been paid.
The committee said that in the current climate, with the MeToo movement focusing attention on harassment, members of Congress need to be leaders in proper workplace behavior.
Mr. Meadows is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, comprised of several dozen very conservative lawmakers.
He had argued to the committee that he viewed Mr. West’s payments as severance, and he said the House’s rules for such payments were not clear.
“While I believe my own actions were consistent with some official language and practices of the House in situations similar to the one I was in, I now understand that my interpretation may have been inconsistent with yours, which of course is controlling on all of our actions,” he wrote the committee. “I apologize if that was the case.”
Mr. West, for his part, called the accusations against him a “callous situation and lie” in his resignation letter. That letter requested the three-month severance period.