(WHTM)– A top aide to Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro has left the administration amid sexual harassment claims, and the allegations are disturbing, but many women lawmakers say what’s worse is the way the governor handled them.
“I found this situation very disturbing,” State Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R) said.
The situation is an accusation of sexual harassment against Shapiro Legislative Affairs Director Mike Vereb early in the year. He just resigned last week after increasing media inquiry.
“You know, they protected him,” Ward said. “He stayed in this very powerful position and the victim was left to fend for herself. She thought she had to quit her job. That is just wrong. It is wrong.”
Vereb is not commenting and the governor is not taking questions but a spokesman issued a statement saying in part:
“Robust procedures are in place for thoroughly investigating reports of discrimination and harassment,” the statement reads.
“I think if the press, if the information hadn’t been leaked to the press, that he would still be there, that that he would still be in that position where he could continue to do that,” State Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland counties) said.
Majors’ allegation against now-former State Rep. Mike Zabel led to his resignation in March and Majors spoke to Vereb’s accuser. She knows some dismiss it as younger women easily offended but says this was repeated, sexually charged comments.
“Listen, we’re not trying to get rid of men who maybe make an offhand comment that’s taken the wrong way, like they don’t deserve to be immediately fired, maybe investigated to make sure it’s not a pattern of behavior,” Majors said. “But if there’s a pattern of inappropriate behavior with many women over many years, like, that we just can’t put up with that anymore.”
There are strong suggestions at the capitol that there’s been a settlement with the accuser and a non-disclosure agreement forcing all parties to be quiet about it.
Ward is not being quiet about it and said if true details should be made public
“I actually think I just think a (nondisclosure agreement) for something as serious as this charge, if taxpayer money was used, yes, the taxpayers deserve to know that.”
Ward also wonders whether this had anything to do with the undone budget.
“(Vereb) was the man that the legislature worked with,” Ward said. “And, you know, we don’t have a budget. We’re months late. And you almost wonder if he was distracted because of this situation when he should have been focusing only on getting this budget done.”
Just before Vereb’s resignation, abc27 submitted a right-to-know request asking for details of the allegations or any settlement. The administration has asked for a 30-day extension, which is their right.