U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva paid off a former employee in a settlement.
Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana confirmed a statement Grijalva made to the Washington Times about the payoff.
Grijalva released this statement Tuesday:
“Last week, the Washington Times contacted me seeking comment on what it described as a sexual harassment claim that, in fact, had never been made. Once the paper realized its original story was provably false, staff regrouped over the holidays and decided to run a misleading article trying to link me to sexual harassment complaints made against other people.
“The fact is that an employee and I, working with the House Employment Counsel, mutually agreed on terms for a severance package, including an agreement that neither of us would talk about it publicly. The terms were consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance. The severance funds came out of my committee operating budget. Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately.
“The journalistic standards at the Washington Times are lax and the paper owes me an apology.”
Washington Times executive editor Christopher Dolan sent us this response:
The congressman has not communicated any request for an apology to The Washington Times, nor has he told us of any errors in the report. We quoted his statement in its entirety, in which he made clear this was not a sexual harassment claim issue.
The congressman declined to reply to follow-up questions from The Times about the settlement, but in his original statement he admits to making a severance payment of nearly $50,000 using a method that appears to be in violation of House rules. Ethics watchdogs told The Times that using the House Employment Counsel to negotiate a secret payout is another way of hiding complaints of workplace malfeasance.
Here is the statement Grijalva released to the Washington Post and confirmed by Sarvana:
On the advice of House Employment Counsel, I provided a severance package to a former employee who resigned.
The severance did not involve the Office of Compliance and at no time was any allegation of sexual harassment made, and no sexual harassment occurred.
Under the terms of the agreement, had there been an allegation of sexual harassment, the employee would have been free to report it.
Regrettably, for me to provide any further details on this matter would violate the agreement.
According to the Times, the employee worked for Grijalva for three months in 2015 and received $48,395 -- five months' salary -- "after complaining of a hostile work environment and Grijalva's frequent drunkenness."
Grijalva has represented parts of Southern Arizona in Congress since 2002.