Last Friday, media outlets began rehashing a 2015 story about a lawsuit that was settled with a former employee of my office. As those of you who know me or who have been following this case closely know, many of those stories were inaccurate or incomplete.
The independent, bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) thoroughly investigated this matter and held 6-0 that:
"...there is not a substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against Complainant, or engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against Complainant for opposing such treatment, in violation of House rules and federal law."
Shortly after that report, there was a mediated settlement agreement where:
"...the parties believe that the mediator’s solution saves the parties, and the taxpayers, significant sums that would be expended in further discovery and/or trial. The parties’ settlement expressly provides that both parties deny all liability."
Early on in this matter, I hired my own attorney and was prepared to settle or litigate this matter without using taxpayer funds. I was told by the Office of House Employment Counsel (OHEC) that since I was not personally a party to the suit - as the entity sued was the Office of Representative Farenthold, in actuality the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of House Employment Counsel would have to represent the office and that a fund created under the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) must be used to pay any settlement. Despite the findings of OCE and my following of the law in the CAA and House attorneys' advice, I have agreed to repay the amount of the settlement.
Make no mistake, this repayment is not an admission of guilt. I am making it for several reasons, primarily because it feels like the right thing to do. Also, I believe the current system that requires taxpayers to fund secret settlements must be fixed and I cannot be an effective advocate to fix this problem with people saying I benefited from it.
I am also pledging to take a leadership role in reforming an obviously broken system to ensure all employees of Congress can work in an environment free from harassment of any form and ensure that individuals who perpetrate harassment of any kind are exposed and held responsible.
As your member of Congress, I hope to continue this process in a way that is transparent and open. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office by calling 361-884-2222, or by sending an email through my website, farenthold.house.gov.