No one had to guess whether Rep. John Conyers wore boxers or briefs, according to a former key staffer, who said the beleaguered Michigan congressman once called her into a meeting while sporting only his skivvies.
Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who worked with Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee, said she was called up to the long-serving congressman’s office to discuss an issue only to find him “walking around in his underwear.”
Sloan is the third woman to accuse Conyers of improper behavior.
“It made me increasingly anxious and depressed about going to work every day,” she said, adding that “there was no way to fix it.”
“It made me increasingly anxious and depressed about going to work every day.”
“There was no mechanism I could use, no person I could go to,” she said.
Sloan was a well-known Washington lawyer when she worked as Democratic counsel on the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s. It was not clear exactly when the strange encounter with the lawmaker, now 88, occurred.
During her time working for the committee, she claims Conyers often screamed at her, fired her then re-hired her, criticized her for not wearing stockings and once even ordered her to babysit one of his children.
While those revelations came out earlier this week, word of Conyers, who was first elected to Congress in 1964, taking a meeting in his underwear came this week in a Detroit Free Press article.
Though Sloan maintains Conyers did not sexually assault her, she told the Detroit Free Press that “his constant stream of abuse was difficult to handle and it was certainly damaging to my self-respect and self-esteem.”
Conyers’ hometown newspaper earlier this week called for his resignation in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him as well as a questionable payout to one alleged victim.
Conyers is accused of using taxpayer dollars to settle a claim in secret, after a former staff reportedly claimed she was fired for rejecting his advances.
In a scathing editorial published late Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press demanded the Democrat step down immediately.
The paper called Conyers’ actions “the kind of behavior that can never be tolerated in a public official, much less an elected representative of the people.”
“He should resign his position and allow the investigation into his behavior to unfold without the threat that it would render him, and the people he now represents, effectively voiceless,” the board wrote.
BuzzFeed reported Monday that Conyers settled a wrongful termination complaint in 2015 with a staffer who claimed she was dismissed because she did not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”
Conyers acknowledged in a statement that his office paid his accuser the money — reportedly a $27,000 sum — but “vehemently” denied the underlying claims.
“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” Conyers, who has spent 53 years in Congress, said. “My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative.”
But the Detroit Free Press, which described Conyers as an “undisputed hero of the civil rights movement,” took issue with how Conyers’ office chose to handle the issue.
After the alleged victim made a formal complaint through Congress’ Office of Compliance, Conyers’ office reportedly pushed to handle the situation on its own. If the woman dropped her complaint, signed a legal document saying Conyers had done nothing wrong and promised not to make any additional claims against him, she would be re-hired as a temporary “no-show” employee and paid $27,111.75 for three months, according to reports. The accuser agreed to the terms.
Conyers’ office defended the agreement as a way to avoid litigation – though House ethics rules bar lawmakers from keeping an employee on the payroll who isn’t doing anything.
“A House member can’t retain an employee who isn’t performing work commensurate with the pay, and regardless, can’t give back pay for work that stretches further than a month,” the editorial board wrote.
While acknowledging that payoffs happen in the private sector, the board said “it should never, ever happen where public dollars (and public accountability) are concerned.”
Calling it a “public betrayal,” the board wrote it’s impossible to know how often the practice takes places in Congress but added Conyers should have known better.
Even though resigning would end his otherwise “stellar career,” the paper wrote that it’s “the appropriate consequence for the stunning subterfuge his office has indulged here, and a needed warning to other members of Congress that this can never be tolerated.”
The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday it has opened an investigation into the matter.
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