The removal of a House Ethics Committee member for using public funds to settle a sexual harassment complaint means that Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton) has renewed questions about his role in settling a colleague’s lawsuit in 2004.
House Speaker Ryan pulled Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) from the ethics panel yesterday following a New York Times report that Meegan used his congressional office account in a confidential settlement with a former staff member.
One of the potential Democratic candidates, attorney Goutam Jois, has already begun to use the Bucco case as a campaign issue.
Lance “must also come clean about his role in a secret sexual harassment settlement of a fellow Republican,” Jois said in a tweet after Meehan’s removal from the Ethics Committee.
Lance, also a member of the House Ethics Committee and the head of a panel investigating harassment claims against a Texas congressman, was serving as the New Jersey Senate Minority Leader when a lawsuit against State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton) was settled and sealed.
A former legislative aide alleged that her job on Bucco’s Senate staff required that she engage in a sexual relationship with him. Claiming that Bucco’s wife learned of the affair and demanded that she be fired from his staff, the aide filed a lawsuit against Bucco and the New Jersey Senate. The lawsuit was settled on the condition that the terms remain confidential.
As Minority Leader, Lance would have been part of the approval process in any harassment settlements involving the State Senate. Sources say that then Senate President at the time, Richard Codey (D-West Orange), did consult Lance.
Lance, facing an aggressive challenge this year for his 7th district House seat, has waded into murky waters on his own. Last week, he co-sponsored legislation that would require transparency on all sexual harassment settlements and awards. Lance’s bill also makes lawmakers personally liable.
“It is time for accountability and reform,” Lance said in a statement last week.
Jois has asked Lance to explain his actions in the Bucco settlement.
“What was your role in Sen. Bucco’s sexual harassment settlement? Will you call on him to make the secret settlement public? Do you believe the woman and is Sen Bucco fit to hold office?” asked Jois.