The Ethics Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a scathing 45-page report today in which it blasts North Carolina Congressman, Freedom Caucus leader and high-profile Trump supporter Mark Meadows for his “failure to take prompt and decisive action to deal with the alleged sexual harassment in his congressional office.” The case stemmed from Meadows’ failure to take adequate action to address the serial incidents of sexual harassment committed by his (now former) chief of staff, Kenny West in 2014 and 2015. West was removed from his position after the harassment came to light, but Meadows kept him on staff for months as a “senior advisor.” After later resigning, West continued to draw full salary and travel reimbursement for two months.
The committee ordered Meadows to pay $40,625.02 to the U.S. Treasury. Of course, the maddening and suspicious aspect of the committee’s action is that it didn’t come out until a Friday afternoon 10 days after Meadows was re-elected. While the language used and sentiment expressed in the report both seem appropriately scathing, the timing feels very much as if it was designed so as to minimize problems for Meadows. Here is the report conclusion:
The Committee takes allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination extremely seriously. Mr. West’s behavior toward the female employees in Representative Meadows’ office, regardless of whether or not a federal court would consider it sexual harassment under Title VII, has no place in the House of Representatives. In 2014, the Committee advised Members “to scrupulously avoid even the impression of a workplace tainted by sexism.” The Committee emphatically reiterates that message again today.
Representative Meadows could have and should have done more to ensure that his congressional office was free from discrimination or the perception of discrimination. While Representative Meadows did take some important immediate steps after learning of the allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. West , he did not do enough to address the allegations or to prevent potential further harassment or retaliation. His failure to take decisive action led to his retention of an employee who did not perform duties commensurate with his pay. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the Committee decided to reprove Representative Meadows for his conduct in this matter. Additionally, the Committee concluded that Representative Meadows must reimburse the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $40,625.02 for Mr. West’s salary that was not commensurate with his work.
The Committee is conscious of the current climate, as the nation seeks a more full-throated societal condemnation of sexual harassment than what has been the norm of past generations. As representatives of the people, the House should be a leader in this national conversation. It is the Committee’s hope that this Report will not only hold Representative Meadows accountable for the inadequacy of his response to allegations of sexual harassment against someone under his supervision, but serve as a caution to the entire House community to be sensitive to the potential for sexual harassment and discrimination. Amid an evolving national conversation about sexual harassment, Members’ offices should serve as an example for the modern American workplace, and accordingly those offices should be professional and fair environments for all who work within them. Upon publication of this Report and Representative Meadows’ reimbursement of funds to the U.S. Treasury, the Committee considers the matter closed.