Report: Conyers settled sex misconduct complaint

November 21, 2017 GMT

Washington — U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Detroit Democrat, on Monday became the latest lawmaker on Capitol Hill facing accusations of sexual misconduct, with a report by BuzzFeed News that he settled a wrongful dismissal complaint with a staffer who claimed she was fired after refusing his sexual advances.

Conyers, 88, is the longest-serving member of Congress and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

BuzzFeed said Conyers settled the complaint for $27,000 in 2015 in exchange for a confidentiality agreement.

The website also published three notarized affidavits, dated October and November 2014, allegedly signed by former Conyers staffers. The names of the staffers are redacted, as well as the names of the Wayne County notaries before whom they appeared.

The affidavits describe Conyers making advances toward female staffers that included requests for sexual favors, caressing their hands in a “sexually suggestive” way, and rubbing their legs and backs in an inappropriate manner while in the office or in public.

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The Detroit News has not independently confirmed the allegations against Conyers. A spokeswoman for the congressman did not respond to requests for comment late Monday.

Buzzfeed said it first received the documents from the right-wing activist Mike Cernovich but independently verified their authenticity with four people connected with the case, including the accuser. The outlet also linked to redacted versions of the affidavits posted online.

News of the settlement comes amid a growing number of sexual harassment claims involving public figures in Hollywood, the media and politics.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota last week called for an ethics investigation of his own behavior after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him of kissing and groping her without her consent during a USO tour in 2006.

BuzzFeed News spoke to the woman who filed the wrongful termination complaint against Conyers with the congressional Office of Compliance in 2014, but it did not name her because she is concerned about retribution.

Her case concluded with a $27,111.75 settlement in 2015 under the confidentiality agreement, according to BuzzFeed, which said the settlement money came from Conyers’ office budget and not a congressional fund used for settlements.

An unsigned draft of the agreement between the woman and Conyers’ office obtained by BuzzFeed denies her allegations.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was unaware of the Conyers settlement.

“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms. I strongly support her efforts.”

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One Conyers staffer wrote in an affidavit of witnessing Conyers rubbing the legs of female staffers in public, in the office, in cars en route to events, and “at times would slide their chairs closer together in order to do so.”

The same staffer described being asked on “multiple occasions” to pick up women and deliver them to Conyers’ apartments or hotel rooms.

Another staffer said one of her duties was to “keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using congressional resources.”

“I was driving the Congressman in my personal car and was resting my hand on the stick shift. Rep. Conyers reached over and began to caress my hand in a sexual manner,” the staffer wrote in the affidavit.

The staffer said she told Conyers she wasn’t interested in a sexual relationship, and he withdrew his hand, according to her affidavit.

“I am personally aware of several other women who have experienced the same or similar sexual advances made towards them by Rep. John Conyers,” she said in the affidavit.

The staffer said she heard from Conyers’ constituents that it was well-known Conyers had sexual relations with staffers, and said felt this made it “very awkward” when he rubbed their backs or put his arms around them at events, which they felt “undermined their credibility.”

A third staffer wrote in an affidavit of witnessing some of Conyers’ behavior with female staffers and counseling Conyers about his behavior.

Conyers allegedly responded by saying he would work on it, but then complained publicly to others that he wished this staffer would stop putting things in writing.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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