(WHTM)– The Pennsylvania governor’s office released information about a settlement for a staffer who accused a Mike Vereb, a former top aide to Governor Josh Shapiro, of sexual harassment.
A degree of transparency, a 14-page response to our right-to-know request, and revealing names and numbers. Nearly $200,000 to the person who accused Vereb of sexual harassment. Nearly a $100,000 more to her two attorneys.
“I will say this, Dennis, I don’t think taxpayers are going to be really happy when they find out that their tax dollars went for what looks like a cover-up of bad behavior,” Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill/(R) York County said. “Would it have been transparent had you not done that right to no request? I don’t think so.”
Republican lawmakers want to know when the governor knew of the allegations which were lodged in March and why nothing happened to Vereb until September. The administration insists it followed procedure and has a robust and fair process to protect all employees.
“Governor Shapiro isn’t the first governor to have a sexual harassment scandal in his office, but he has built a national profile on being an advocate for victims,” State Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland Counties) said. “But he can’t even protect the victims in his own office.”
The governor’s office dismisses that complaint saying Shapiro has a long track record and takes a back seat to no one in standing up for victims. The full statement can be read below.
“Governor Shapiro has a long track record of standing up for victims of abuse and fighting to deliver justice and accountability for survivors all across Pennsylvania – from exposing the Catholic Church’s decades-long cover-up of child sexual abuse to supporting long-delayed legislation to give survivors their day in court,” a spokesperson said. “The Governor will take a back seat to no one when it comes to standing up for victims.”
All sides agreed to the settlement, mediated by the PA Human Relations Commission. The governor’s office denies wrongdoing but its spokesman notes such cases often lead to protracted and expensive legal fights.
A nondisclosure is part of the deal, none of the involved parties can talk about it. But women of the opposite party can, and are.
“So the taxpayers have a right to know where their taxpayer dollars are going, that they’re going to silence victims with a taxpayer-funded settlement and an NDA,” Major said. “And to cover up the predatory behavior of his right-hand man. I think it just shows that the system is broken.”
Female lawmakers in both the House and Senate are working on bills to tighten the system around non-disclosure agreements and the use of public money on such settlements.