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Make congressional settlements public

Profile image for Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial
Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial

While we are on the subject of government openness, who knew the obscure Congressional Office of Compliance has been quietly paying off sexual harassment claims against House and Senate members and their staffs?

Let's say a congressman gets handsy with a staffer who doesn't want the attention. Staffer then files a complaint. Settlement is reached. Taxpayer money gets paid to the complainant. It's all a big secret.

Very few people outside the committee chairpersons approving the settlements even knew this system existed until the recent focus on sexual harassment erupted into a national dialogue and debate.

The identities of lawmakers or their aides who reach misconduct settlements aren't disclosed, effectively meaning there's no warning system for other potential victims.

It's fine for Congress to set up a system to resolve harassment complaints without clogging up court dockets. But the system cannot be opaque. The results of investigations and any settlements should be reported on the Office of Compliance website at www.compliance.gov.

The public needs to know the offenders. End the secrecy. Name the names.