In a damning report published by Buzzfeed and the Washington Post, documents were revealed that show complaints filed by multiple staffers against Rep. John Conyers for unwanted sexual advances and wrongful dismissals. Conyers is a high-ranking Democrat representing the 13th District of Michigan who founded the Congressional Black Caucus and is the longest-serving House member at 88 years old.
The complaints led to the finding of a “secret mechanism by which Congress has kept an unknown number of sexual harassment allegations secret,” a slush fund in Congress’s Office of Compliance from which $17 million was paid out for 264 settlements with “federal employees over 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment.”
A woman who filed a complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014 alleged she was fired from Conyers’ office for refusing his sexual advances. She was forced to agree to a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000, which came out of “Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.”
Since Congress does not have a human resources department, Congressional employees have 180 days to report a sexual harassment incident to the Office of Compliance, which requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward. Employees, such as the women from Conyers’ staff, can then take the matter to a federal district court or an administrative hearing where a negotiation and settlement are reached. In other words, in exchange for their silence, abused employees are paid out of a Congressman’s taxpayer-funded budget or the Office of Compliance’s taxpayer-funded budget.
Buzzfeed reports that two staffers “alleged in their signed affidavits that Conyers used congressional resources to fly in women they believed he was having affairs with. Another said she was tasked with driving women to and from Conyers’ apartment and hotel rooms.” In the documents, Buzzfeed found that the former employee said: “Rep. Conyers strongly postulated that the performing of personal service or favors would be looked upon favorably and lead to salary increases or promotions.”
Conyers’ colleague, high-ranking Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters, spoke highly of him only last month at a keynote address to the Women’s Convention Sojourner Truth Luncheon in Detroit. Waters told the crowd that Conyers “has impeccable integrity on all of our issues.” Detroit News outlets have since run stories reporting “John Conyers denies harassment settlement.”