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Meadows sanctioned over handling of office harassment

Meadows sanctioned over handling of office harassment

A pair of congressmen — one Democrat and one Republican — were slapped with sanctions by the House Ethics Committee last week in relation to separate cases of sexual harassment.

Freshman Nevada Democratic Rep. Reuben Kihunen allegedly harassed three women during his time in the state legislature prior to 2016 and refused calls to resign but did not stand for re-election this year, putting an end to his career in the House.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, was elected to a fourth term this year and isn’t personally the subject of harassment allegations himself. However his botched handling of an office complaint will cost him $40,000. 

Back in 2014, credible harassment allegations arose around Meadows’ chief of staff, Ken West, who was told not to interact with female employees and later terminated, but kept on the payroll. 

That’s a violation of House rules, “failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that his House office was free from discrimination,” according to a report issued by the commission, which is chaired by Indiana Republican Rep. Susan W. Brooks. 

The order for West to avoid women was also criticized by the committee, which said it amounted to unequal treatment of female staffers by a chief of staff to whom they had no access. 

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Meadows did not respond to a request for an interview on the subject, but did issue a statement through a spokesperson. 

“Three years ago, I asked the Committee on Ethics to review the matter surrounding the alleged conduct of my former chief of staff, Mr. West, and I’m thankful their review has now concluded. I appreciate the Committee’s acknowledgement of the immediate, appropriate and good faith steps I did take after learning of my staff’s concerns — including immediately separating the chief from the accusers so they never had to interact with him personally during the independent investigation,” he said. “Making sure my team feels safe and secure in our office is the highest priority for me and I’m truly sorry for any stress this situation caused them. I thank the Ethics Committee for their work in resolving this, and my office will remain committed to serving western North Carolinians every day to the best of our ability.”

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