Federal Housing Finance chief Mel Watt is now under investigation following accusations of sexual harassment of an employee.
Politico reported that Watt, who previously served as United States Representative for North Carolina’s 12th congressional district from 1993-2014, is accused of making several inappropriate sexual advances when a female employee attempted to discuss career and salary concerns.
Politico also reported it had received copies of documents related to the case, as well as partial transcripts of tapes that held conversations including a meeting in 2016 where Watt steered the discussion to his feelings for the staffer.
Watt acknowledge the investigation, but stated he would have no further comment while it was ongoing. Watt released the following statement through a spokeswoman:
“The selective leaks related to this matter are obviously intended to embarrass or to lead to an unfounded or political conclusion,” Watt said in an e-mail. “However, I am confident that the investigation currently in progress will confirm that I have not done anything contrary to law. I will have no further comment while the investigation is in progress.”
In April 2016, Watt and the staffer had a conversation during a drive to a restaurant in Washington. “Well, you probably want to know what I wanted to talk to you about.” Watt said, according to documents obtained by Politico… “I mentioned to you there is an attraction here that I think needs to be explored. In my experience there are four types of attraction: emotional, spiritual, sexual or of friendship. So, the exercise here is to find out which one exists here.”
The female staffer immediately tried to shut Watt down saying, “If I gave you that impression in any way, that was not intentional.” She added, “My impression was that you wanted to discuss the work-related items I’ve been talking to [a superior] about. But, if that’s not the case, then I think I should take you back to FHFA. Because I don’t want any confusion here.”
In a separate interaction documented in June 2017, Watt once suggested kissing a tattoo on her ankle. “If I kissed that one would it lead to more?” Watt asked the staffer.
She responded with, “Is that what we’re here to talk about? Because I already told you I don’t want to have conversations like that with you.”
No additional details were provided on the investigation by the female employee’s lawyer, Diane Seltzer Torre, but she did confirm a probe was underway. “There is an investigation in progress,” Torre said. “Our preference is to let that investigation proceed.”
A complaint has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity commission by Torre’s client, which gives federal agencies only 180 days to investigate any accusations being made. After that time has passed, the accuser may file a lawsuit. The new documents show that the investigation into Watt’s actions has been in motion for at least a month.
Watt remains “confident” that the ongoing probe into the allegations will reveal he was not at fault and didn’t do “anything contrary to law.”
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