Pa. Legislature agreed to nearly $250K sex misconduct settlement
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania taxpayers funded a quarter-million-dollar settlement over claims of sexual harassment against a longtime state representative, according to government records, prompting a call from the governor on Tuesday for the lawmaker to resign.
Gov. Tom Wolf said state Rep. Tom Caltagirone, a fellow Democrat who has represented the Reading area for four decades, should quit. Caltagirone did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported on a document prepared by the state’s Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management that said House Democrats in 2015 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. She and her lawyer declined comment to the AP.
“Verbal and physical harassment is flat-out wrong, whether towards an employee or any other person. Rep. Caltagirone should resign,” Wolf said. “I fully support the legislative effort by the bipartisan group of women in the House and Senate for reform in this area and hope every member of the General Assembly will join me.”
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.”
The House’s top-ranking Democrat, Minority Leader Frank Dermody, issued a statement late Tuesday saying his caucus agreed to pay out $514,000 since 2007 to settle claims by employees. Two involved sexual harassment claims against two members, and five were other types of employment matters.
Dermody, D-Allegheny, said he was bound by confidentiality agreements and mindful of the privacy rights of former employees.
“I don’t like it and I wish I could disclose more of the specifics, but I have to follow the law,” Dermody said, noting there are currently about 30 open-records requests pending in the House.
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.