Delaware County Congressman Pat Meehan had deep affection for the woman who accused him of sexual harassment — and even thought of her as a “soul mate” — but he insisted Tuesday that he never displayed romantic feelings for her.
Meehan approved a financial settlement with the young woman on his staff who’d filed the complaint, in which she said Meehan expressed a romantic interest in her in a conversation and a handwritten letter.
Both communications occurred after she’d developed a serious relationship with someone outside the office.
Meehan is now telling his side of the story in interviews with media organizations.
He told me in a phone interview he did talk about his feelings in that conversation with the woman.
“I have an affection for her, but I clarified that I was a happily married man, that I was not looking for any kind of a relationship,” Meehan said.
Meehan said he’d had a close working partnership with the young woman, and that the change in their relationship was difficult.
“Sure, it’s emotionally difficult when you’re discussing with a person who’s been with you for so many years that she was ready to move away from that relationship we had for eight years working together, and that’s a loss,” Meehan said.
Meehan also released a copy of the handwritten letter he says he sent to her, which congratulates her on her new relationship, but does not suggest a romantic attraction.
After The New York Times reported the settlement over the weekend, Meehan was removed from the House Ethics Committee. He then asked the committee to investigate the matter.
In our interview Meehan described the payment to the woman, which came from a discretionary account in his congressional office, as a severance payment, rather than a settlement.
A statement released Monday from the Ethics Committee said that payment may have “misused official resources,” and that’s one of the aspects the committee will be reviewing.
Meehan said he would reimburse the government for the payment if it’s found he engaged in sexual harassment.
Alexis Ronickher, the attorney for the complainant, said her client “is not a public person, and she chose to resolve this matter in a way that ensured her confidentiality.”
“The congressman has chosen to grossly breach that,” Ronickher said. She declined to comment further and said her client will cooperate in the Ethics Committee investigation.
Meehan said he was able to share information about the case because Ronickher had made comments to the media that “characterized my actions and intentions in a disparaging way,” which Meehan said was a violation of her responsibilities under the agreement.
Meehan said he intends to seek re-election this year. So far, six Democrats have announced plans to run in the May primary for the seat.