WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee said on Thursday it was investigating Republican Representative Blake Farenthold over allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation involving a former female staff member.
The panel said in a statement it was also looking into whether the Corpus Christi, Texas, congressman made inappropriate statements to other members of his official staff.
Farenthold, 55, said in a statement he was relieved that the ethics panel was going to look into the allegations. “Once all the facts are released, I‘m confident this matter will once and for all be settled and resolved,” he said.
Politico reported last week that the U.S. Congress’ Office of Compliance had paid $84,000 from a public fund on behalf of Farenthold for a sexual harassment claim.
In 2014, Farenthold’s former communications director Lauren Greene sued him, alleging a hostile work environment, gender discrimination and retaliation, court documents showed.
Farenthold and Greene reached a mediated agreement in 2015 to avoid costly litigation, but the settlement’s details were confidential, according to a statement released at the time, where Farenthold denied engaging in any wrongdoing.
Farenthold told KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi on Monday that he would return the sum.
Capitol Hill has been rocked in recent weeks by allegations of sexual misconduct by lawmakers, and outrage that public money may have been paid to settle harassment suits against members of Congress.
Three lawmakers said this week they would resign amid sexual harassment allegations: Democratic Senator Al Franken, Democratic Representative John Conyers and Republican Representative Trent Franks.
Reporting by Eric Walsh and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Peter Cooney