‘So much about working in Washington is about loyalty’

The Washington Post reports: A high-profile Washington lawyer specializing in congressional ethics said Wednesday that Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) harassed and verbally abused her when she worked for him on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and that her repeated appeals for help to congressional leadership were ignored.

“There was nothing I could do to stop it,” Melanie Sloan said in an interview. “Not going to leadership, not going to my boss, not going to a women’s group, not going to a reporter. I was dismissed and told I must be mentally unstable.”

Sloan, the former executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was hired by Conyers in 1995 as minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, where he served as the ranking Democrat. She held the job until 1998.

During that time, Sloan said, she witnessed and experienced behavior by Conyers similar to episodes described in claims against him that on Tuesday prompted the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation.

In addition to accusations of sexual misconduct, the claims against Conyers included “mistreatment of staff.” Sloan said she did not believe she was sexually harassed by the congressman, but she said his behavior toward her was inappropriate and abusive. She said she was speaking publicly after seeing Conyers dismiss former staff members’ accounts of misconduct.

Sloan said that Conyers routinely yelled at and berated her, often criticizing her appearance. On one occasion, she said, he summoned her to his Rayburn Building office, where she found him in his underwear.

“I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed,” she said. “I turned on my heel and I left.”

Arnold Reed, Conyers’s legal counsel, denied Sloan’s allegations and said Conyers will address complaints about his conduct after Thanksgiving. “Representative Conyers has never done anything inappropriate to Melanie Sloan,” he said.

Sloan is the first former Conyers staff member to speak on the record about the 88-year-old congressman, the longest-serving member of the House and the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. She said she kept quiet about the incidents for 20 years because her earlier complaints were not taken seriously. She agreed to speak about her experience with Conyers after a Washington Post reporter contacted her.

“The reason I decided to go on the record is to make it easier for other people,” she said. “People are afraid to come forward. So much about working in Washington is about loyalty, and you are supposed to shut up about these things.” [Continue reading…]

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