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Legislators paid nearly $250K to settle sex misconduct claim

Written by The Associated Press | Dec 19, 2017 4:57 PM
caltagirone.jpg

Courtesy: Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania House Democrats and a state agency authorized payment of about a quarter-million in taxpayer dollars two years ago to settle a sex harassment claim against a long-time state representative, two newspapers reported Tuesday.

The 2015 payments settled an employee's complaint against Rep. Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County, a member of the Legislature for 40 years, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The newspapers cited a document prepared by the state's Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management that said House Democrats authorized paying $165,500 to the unidentified woman and $82,500 to her lawyer.

The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a Department of General Services "sovereign immunity-tort claims settlement memorandum and invoice" on the matter that was signed by House Democratic chief counsel Nora Winkelman and the state's risk and insurance management director.

That form asserted the woman had initially made a claim of $1.5 million for what was called "a complaint of discrimination, among other things" under a federal law that bans discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

The woman was described as a legislative assistant in Caltagirone's district office.

Winkelman said in an email that she has "submitted (and signed) several requests over the years on behalf of the caucus for payment from DGS under the commonwealth's self-insured liability insurance plan that the House participates in. That's all I can say right now."

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, and Caltagirone did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The Department of General Services form, signed in February 2015, said the settlement came after months of negotiation, and noted the woman had threatened to file complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Human Relations Commission, "and ultimately a civil complaint."

The form said: "We ... have determined that settlement of this matter is in the best interests of the Democratic Caucus and the Pennsylvania House of Representative as a prolonged defense of such claims would be costly."

The form shows two amounts for the woman's payments -- $165,500 and $167,500. It did not explain the contradiction. The form said the "date of the incident" was Aug. 13, 2014.

Caltagirone, 75, ran unopposed for re-election last year in both the primary and general elections. He had served for many years as the ranking Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee, but he was replaced as Democratic chairman on that committee two months before the settlement invoice was signed. He is now the top Democrat on the Consumer Affairs Committee.

More than 20 years ago, Caltagirone was investigated after the sister-in-law of his ex-wife complained to authorities that he had sexually harassed her and threatened her with a gun while she worked for him.

The woman had said that on two occasions Caltagirone exposed himself to her and requested sex acts. In one instance, she said, he threatened her at gunpoint not to tell anyone. Caltagirone denied the allegations.

The Associated Press has pending Right-to-Know Law requests with the Legislature, General Services and other elements of state government, seeking details about sexual harassment complaints, claims and settlements.

House Democrats confirmed last month they paid $30,000 in 2013 to end a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee against former Rep. Jewell Williams, now Philadelphia's sheriff.

An earlier story appears below. 

(Harrisburg) -- Two newspapers are reporting that Pennsylvania House Democrats paid out nearly a quarter-million in taxpayer dollars to settle a sex harassment claim against a long-time state representative from the midstate.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday a 2015 payment settled an employee's complaint against Rep. Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County. He's been in the Legislature for 40 years.

The newspapers cited a document prepared by the state's Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management. It says House Democrats authorized paying $165,500 to the unidentified woman and $82,500 to her lawyer.

Top House Democrats, the 75-year-old lawmaker and the woman's lawyer didn't return telephone calls seeking comment.

House Democrats confirmed last month they paid $30,000 in 2013 to end a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee against former Rep. Jewell Williams, now Philadelphia's sheriff.

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