Late Monday night, an explosive report was published revealing that Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, had settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee after she accused him of firing her because she refused his sexual advances.
In addition, BuzzFeed, who published the report, revealed they had obtained documents from the former employee’s complaint, including four signed affidavits from other staff members who all confirmed that Conyers had repeatedly sexually harassed them and made unwanted sexual advances toward female staff members over the years.
BuzzFeed reported that three of the signed affidavits are also notarized, and the documents were verified as authentic by at least four other people involved.
Allegations against Conyers include requests for sexual favors, touching female staff inappropriately, and being asked to contact other women, with whom he was believed to be having affairs, from a list and having them flown in, then driving them to Conyers’ apartment or hotel rooms, according to the report.
In the case of the former employee who filed the complaint in 2014, and was offered a settlement to keep quiet, the report states that she was paid out of Conyers’ taxpayer-funded office budget. The “settlement” came in the form of three monthly “severance” payments, in which she was fired, but then “rehired as a temporary employee.”
However, the agreement stated, “During the severance period, Complainant will not perform work for the Office… she will not come to the Office’s premises… and she will not represent to third parties that she is currently affiliated with the Office.” Her monthly payments were just over $9,000 each, for a total settlement of $27,111.75.
The draft agreement viewed by BuzzFeed News was unsigned, but congressional employment records match the timing and amounts outlined in the document. The woman left the office and never went public with her story.
One of the women said, “I am personally aware of several women who have experienced the same or similar sexual advances made towards them by Rep[.] John Conyers.”
Another male staff member said that he witnessed Rep. Conyers rub or touch female staff members “in an inappropriate manner,” and said he even confronted Conyers about it. Conyers reportedly admitted that he should be careful “because bad publicity would not be helpful as he runs for re-election.”
Conyers, 88, has served in the House since 1965, a total of 52 years, making him the longest-serving current member of the House of Representatives. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and has been touted as a civil rights icon.
In 2010, his wife, Monica Conyers, 52, who is a former Detroit city council member, was sentenced to three years in prison over bribery charges. Mrs. Conyers had worked as an intern in Conyers’ office during the summer of 1989, and they were married in 1990 when she was 25 and he was 61. She filed for divorce in September 2015 (the same year he paid the wrongful dismissal settlement to a former employee), but they reconciled and renewed their vows in August 2016.
Just one week ago, on Tuesday, Nov. 14, Conyers grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a hearing and compared President Trump to former president Richard Nixon.
“What strikes me about these comments is the president’s view that the criminal justice system serves him, and not the public,” Conyers said, adding, ironically, “President Trump seems to believe that on a whim, he can bring pressure to bear on his enemies, dismiss charges against his allies, and insulate himself and his family from any consequence. I cannot over-emphasize the danger this perspective poses to our republic.”
Also on Nov. 14, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) relayed a story to the Committee on House Administration members during a hearing on existing sexual harassment policies.
“I wanted to close with something that I just had somebody tell me recently. This is about a member who is here now. I don’t know who it is, but somebody who I trust told me this situation,” Comstock said.
“This member asked a staffer to bring them over some materials to their residence. This young staffer — it was a woman — this younger staffer went there and was greeted with a member in a towel. It was a male who then invited her in. At that point, he decided to expose himself. She left and then she quit her job,” Comstock told the committee.
The identity of both the victim and the suspect were not given. Comstock called for victims to “name names” in order for Congress to get a better idea of what is happening — and who is to blame.