House ethics panel opens Conyers investigation amid sexual harassment allegations

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MGN)

The leaders of the House Ethics Committee say the panel has begun an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Michigan Rep. John Conyers.

Posted: Nov 21, 2017 4:07 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2017 4:10 PM

DETROIT (AP) - The Latest on sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

The leaders of the House Ethics Committee say the panel has begun an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Michigan Rep. John Conyers.

A statement from Reps. Susan Brooks and Ted Deutch says the committee is aware of public allegations that Conyers may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes.

The lawmakers emphasize that the mere fact the committee is investigating does not itself indicate any violation has occurred.

BuzzFeed reported Monday that Conyers' office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a harassment complaint. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed the Michigan Democrat touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

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1:25 p.m.

Rep. John Conyers is acknowledging his office has settled a harassment complaint involving a former staffer but denies the allegations against him.

The Detroit Democrat said Tuesday in a statement that his office "resolved the allegations" ... "for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment."

Conyers earlier told The Associated Press at his home that he hadn't settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members and knew nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching.

BuzzFeed reports that Conyers' office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they'd witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

A spokesperson said in a statement that Conyers was under the impression The AP reporter was speaking Tuesday of "recent allegations of which he was unaware of and denied."

___

1:20 p.m.

The top House Democrat says the House Ethics Committee must investigate "any credible allegation of sexual harassment" by Rep. John Conyers, who has been accused by a former employee of firing her for rebuffing his advances.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement Tuesday that lawmakers must have "zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse."

Pelosi did not address whether Conyers should remain the top Democrat on the powerful Judiciary panel. The Michigan Democrat is the longest-serving House member. Pelosi weighed in after several other Democrats had already called for a probe.

BuzzFeed News reported that Conyers, 88, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 filed by a women who claimed she was fired after refusing his sexual advances.

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1:20 p.m.

A leading Democratic lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee says the House Ethics Committee should investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California says the committee should promptly assess the validity of a BuzzFeed report. The report included affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

Lofgren, who once served on the Ethics Committee, says: "this reported behavior cannot be tolerated in the House of Representatives or anywhere else."

Conyers told The Associated Press on Tuesday morning that he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the story just hours earlier from TV reports.

___

12:50 p.m.

An attorney says it's highly unlikely that Michigan Congressman John Conyers wouldn't be aware of a settlement with a former aide who says she was fired after spurning his sexual advances.

Washington-based lawyer Les Alderman has represented victims in several workplace discrimination lawsuits on Capitol Hill, including a sexual harassment case against a Texas congressman.

Alderman told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a lawmaker would be aware of a complaint, as well as any settlement, after a complaint was brought to the Office of Compliance.

The Detroit Democrat told the AP on Tuesday that he hasn't settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members and knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching.

BuzzFeed reports that Conyers' office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they'd witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

___

10:20 a.m.

Longtime Michigan Rep. John Conyers has told The Associated Press that he hasn't settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members.

Conyers, who answered the door at his Detroit home Tuesday morning, says he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the story just hours earlier.

Referring to allegations of sexual harassment and assault being made against politicians and others, the veteran lawmaker says he's "been looking at these things with amazement."

BuzzFeed reports that Conyers' office paid the woman over $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement.

BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

___

9:55 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says it's "deeply troubling" that 88-year-old Rep. John Conyers reportedly settled a complaint in 2015 with a female aide who claimed she was fired after spurning his sexual advances.

Ryan says the House is changing its procedures for handling charges of harassment and discrimination, which have been called too weak and cumbersome.

The Wisconsin Republican says House employees "deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination."

The speaker's statement didn't mention Conyers' name. Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed it was directed at the Michigan Democrat.

Conyers entered the House in 1965 and is currently its longest-serving member. He's top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

The Buzzfeed News report said Conyers paid the woman $27,000 to settle the complaint with a confidentiality agreement.

___

3 a.m.

A news website Is reporting that Michigan Rep. John Conyers settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances.

BuzzFeed reports that Conyers' office paid the woman over $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement.

BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately or requesting sexual favors.

BuzzFeed says it received the documents from right-wing activist Mike Cernovich, but independently confirmed their authenticity.

The 88-year-old Conyers is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving current member of the House. Calls to Conyers and his office seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday night.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

11/21/2017 3:39:24 PM (GMT -6:00)

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