PennLive is reporting that Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration paid $295,000 of taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment complaint against top aide Mike Vereb.
The 14-page settlement document was obtained through the state’s Right to Know Law and stipulated that neither the commonwealth nor the governor’s office would be held liable for any wrongdoing regarding the allegations from a former deputy secretary in Vereb’s office.
The agreement contains a clause barring both sides from discussing the matter; however, it allows for the settlement to be released if there is a legal requirement, such as the Right to Know Law, to do so.
The settlement reached through the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission mediation process closes the matter, barring any future litigation or charges arising from the woman’s claims.
Funding to pay the settlement comes in part out of the budget for the governor’s office but mostly out of the commonwealth’s self-insured liability program, according to administration officials.
Vereb, who resigned on September 27, served in the State House from 2007-17 in Montgomery County’s 150th District. He worked for Shapiro in the Attorney General’s office as Director of Government Affairs and joined the Cabinet in January.
Shapiro has come under fire from Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland).
“The details of the sexual harassment complaint filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against Gov. Shapiro’s Office are appalling,” she said in a statement. “Despite this being a personnel matter, the Governor’s office has offered official comments and conflicting information on the issue. This not only raises concerns related to their workplace practices, but also whether this matter has influenced our current unfinished budget situation, and how taxpayer funds are supporting this issue.
“The alleged offender remained in his influential role until he tendered his resignation leaving the victim in an unsafe space, to fend for herself, with limited options. This is unacceptable.”
Shapiro added fuel to the fire two weeks ago, when he responded to a question about Ward’s comments.
“First of all, I just say consider the source when it comes to the president pro tem. We have an independent, robust process. That is one where any employee should feel comfortable coming forward, and that their voice will be heard.”
According to The Knowles Group located in the Pacific Northwest, “sexual harassment claims are notoriously difficult to monetize. Since companies settle many claims privately, it is also difficult to determine accurate average values.
However, one study dissecting 50 sexual harassment settlements found an average settlement value of approximately $53,000, with a median of $30,000. According to the EEOC, 8,147 beneficiaries recovered more than $299.8M between 2018 and 2021, producing an average settlement value of $36,798. Another study completed in 2006 determined that cases won in trial averaged more than $217,000.”
This story may be updated