When the Alleged Abuser Refuses to Leave …

The lack of legal protection from workplace abuse has consequences, as can be seen in the cases of two politicians who have ignored calls to resign.

Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves is weathering a storm of protest after an investigation concluded in December that he was “widely viewed as a workplace bully, dishonest, demeaning, intimidating, threatening and explosive.” According to The Daily Herald, Graves is ignoring calls to resign, while working mainly from home. The investigation was prompted after a worker complained that she was sexually harassed by Graves.

Meanwhile, State Rep.  Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, is undeterred by a flap involving his use of taxpayer funds in 2015 to pay a $48,395 settlement to a female employee in Washington, D.C.  who allegedly threatened to sue him over frequent drunkenness and a hostile work environment.

The flap generated a letter to the editor in a local newspaper calling for Grijalva’s resignation but otherwise seems to have had little impact in Southern Arizona. Grijalva is seeking re-election to Congress to his eighth term in Congress.

The settlement was initially disclosed by The Washington Times in December when it reported on how the Congress uses taxpayer money to quietly settle sexual harassment and other worker complaints against members of Congress.  Grijalva denied the settlement involved sexual harassment but said he was constrained from providing “further details on this matter” by a confidentiality agreement in the settlement.

According to the Times, a top Democratic staffer, after only three months on the job, hired a lawyer and threatened to sue Grijalva “for being too often drunk at work and creating a hostile work environment.” Grijalva’s office stopped paying the woman until she agreed to settle the matter for five additional months of pay.

The Times said the payoff “appeared to violate House rules that prohibit a Congress member from retaining ‘an employee who does not perform duties for the offices of the employing authority commensurate with the compensation such employee receives.'”

Grijalva said the severance was negotiated by the House Counsel and the funds “came out of my committee (House Natural Resources Committee) operating budget.” Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the committee.

If he wasn’t working drunk and creating a hostile work environment, then why did he enter into the settlement?

Grijalva said he agreed to the settlement to allow “the Committee to move forward with its operations as quickly as possible and for the former employee to quickly begin seeking new opportunities.”

Grijalva has had problems with alcohol in the past. He pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 1985, while a member of the Tucson Unified School District board. He  claims he got professional help and no longer has an alcohol problem.

After reviewing payroll records, Dylan Smith of the Tucson Sentinel reported the female employee who agreed to the settlement was Meghan Conklin, who was  the Democratic staff director of the House Natural Resources Committee when Grijalva became the top Democrat on that committee at the end of 2014.

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