LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate said Wednesday that it spent $269,000 to investigate and settle sexual harassment complaints against one or more senators more than a decade ago.
The Senate provided the figure to The Associated Press in response to a public-records request. Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, said the accused senator or senators are no longer lawmakers, and the staffer or staffers who filed complaints do not work there anymore.
The names will not be disclosed because the Senate does not release personnel records, she said. The Legislature is not subject to Michigan's Freedom of Information Act but releases financial records under legislative rules and the state constitution.
The AP initially asked for records of payments made to resolve or settle sexual misconduct or harassment allegations against state senators since 2008. That showed $7,500 that was spent to investigate an employment-based gender discrimination complaint that was found to not have merit, McCann said.
A subsequent request by the AP sought records since 2000, leading the Senate to report $269,000 that was spent from 2000 through 2007.
"The Senate sexual harassment policy ensures confidentiality," McCann said when asked why the names of the senator or senators were not disclosed. "The Senate does not release personnel records."
In the past year, at least 14 legislators in 10 states have resigned from office following accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct.
A wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics gained momentum last fall after a multitude of women made allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. No current member of Michigan's Legislature — where lawmakers are limited to six years in the House and eight years in the Senate — has been named publicly.
Over the last decade, one formal sexual harassment or misconduct complaint has been made against a state legislator in Michigan. As was previously reported, the House paid $11,950 in 2015 to settle a lawsuit against then-Rep. Brian Banks, a Democrat from Detroit who was accused of firing an aide after the employee rejected Banks' sexual advances. The House spent about $85,000 on outside lawyers in the case. Banks, who was not disciplined because no allegations were proven in court, resigned last year as part of a plea deal to resolve charges that he submitted fraudulent pay stubs to secure a loan in 2010.
In December, Congress released bare-bones reports on harassment settlement data, which contained no names of lawmakers or victims. It came during a period in which several lawmakers — including Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan — resigned or announced their retirements following sexual harassment accusations, and growing condemnation for the secrecy with which Congress has guarded information about such cases.
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