State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said Thursday that she supports former Gov. Richard Codey and Rep. Leonard Lance disclosing the terms of a 2004 sexual harassment settlement between State Senator Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) and a former staffer.
“I do not support secrecy in this area. For the very reason that I began this out,” Weinberg said at a press conference about a bill that would prohibit non-disclosure clauses in sexual harassment settlements. “Buying and selling silence doesn’t help cure the problem.”
The legislative aide that sued Bucco claimed her job on Bucco’s senate staff required her to enter into a sexual relationship with the senator. She further alleged that she was fired from her senate job and from a post at the Lake Hopatcong Regional Planning Board after the senator’s wife found out about the affair.
The suit, which also named the New Jersey Senate as a defendant was eventually settled on grounds that the terms of the settlement remain confidential.
Such clauses, which are common in legal settlements, would be made illegal in sexual harassment cases by the bill, which has faced some opposition from groups that think the bill might prohibit arbitration in employment contracts.
At the time of the settlement, Lance was minority leader of the State Senate and Codey was Senate President. They would have been party to any settlements made on behalf of the legislature’s upper chamber, according to sources familiar with the Senate operations at the time.
His role in defending a colleague accused of sexual harassment resurfaced for Lance this year, when he was charged with leading a House panel investigating into allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation against disgraced Rep. Blake Farenthold, who resigned in April in the wake of reports that he used $84,000 in public funds to settle the suit.
The Bucco settlement reemerged as an issue in Lance’s reelection race earlier this year when several of Lance’s possible Democratic challengers called for Lance to explain his role in the issue.
While Tom Malinowski, who was declared the Democratic nominee after Tuesday’s election, never made those calls, they could prove a salient issue in what is poised to be a wave election.
But, it isn’t as though the Bucco settlement is Lance’s only input on the issue. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a bill that would require transparency on sexual harassment settlements and awards. That bill would also make lawmakers personally liable.