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By Angela Couloumbis & Katie Meyer | Spotlight PA
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office agreed to pay $295,000 to quietly settle a sexual harassment complaint against one of his most trusted advisors, according to records obtained by Spotlight PA through a public records request.
The settlement will be paid using public dollars. It was signed on Sept. 5, more than three weeks before the advisor, Mike Vereb, abruptly resigned from his job as Shapiro’s liaison to the state legislature, prompting Republicans to question the governor’s handling of the matter.
The agreement included a controversial confidentiality clause that bars both sides from discussing the allegations against Vereb. Spotlight PA is not naming the woman who brought the complaint, in which she alleges Vereb made inappropriate, crude, and sexually suggestive comments during her brief stint working for him earlier this year.
Such clauses have been widely criticized in the wake of the #MeToo movement, particularly when they are included in settlements by government agencies. Opponents believe they create harmful cultures of silence that discourage survivors from reporting misconduct.
Vereb has declined to discuss the allegations, which became public shortly after he resigned late last month.
Shapiro spokesperson Manuel Bonder said in a statement Friday that because of the terms of the agreement, he could not specifically address the allegations. In the settlement, the governor’s office does not admit guilt, and specifically denies liability for the woman’s allegations.
Bonder said complaints like this are often settled because litigation is expensive and can take years to resolve.
“Complainants and defendants often settle litigation for reasons not related to the validity of the underlying facts and claims,” Bonder said.
According to administration officials, $250,000 of the $295,000 settlement will be covered by the state’s Employee Liability Self-Insurance Program, which has been widely used in the past to cover payments resolving harassment and discrimination claims. The remaining $45,000 will be covered by Shapiro’s office.
Nearly $100,000 of the settlement will go to two lawyers who represented the woman who brought the misconduct complaint. The woman worked for Shapiro’s office for just over a month before resigning her position.
This story will be updated.
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