The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday September 20th

Allegations of misused tax dollars launched against US Representative

U.S. Representative Mark Meadows, R-N.C., might face the House Committee on Ethics in the near future for allegations of continuing to pay a fired staff member. 

The employee, former chief of staff Kenneth West, reportedly received his normal salary post-employment — a violation of the House Ethics rules. 

There is additional speculation that West was let go after being reported by multiple female employees for sexual harassment.

Meadows was reported to the Office of Congressional Ethics on Sept. 23 by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).

Matthew Whitaker, executive director of FACT, said it is explicitly prohibited to pay such severances to former employees.

"Obviously the news following our complaint about the facts and circumstances surrounding this individual that was paid the severances is very concerning," Whitaker said. 

According to FACT’s report, which cites a recent Politico article, West ended his employment May 21 but continued to receive full compensation until Aug. 15. 

This comes in direct conflict with the House Ethics Manual, which only allows such payments within the preceding month.

Alyssa Farah, a spokesperson for the representative, said in an email that she could not comment on personnel matters but maintains faith in Meadows' conduct.

“I can tell you that Congressman Meadows is committed to both being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment for his staff," she said. "At the end of both 2013 and 2014, Congressman Meadows returned more than $100,000 left over from his office budget to American taxpayers. That’s much more than the average member of Congress."

If there is reasonable evidence for the allegations to be true, the Office of Congressional Ethics will have up to 89 days to review the case — though the organization's board may terminate this investigation at any time. 

But the Office could also recommend the case to the House Committee on Ethics if there is "substantial reason to believe" the allegations against Meadows.

All information about the Office of Congressional Ethics' report, including the subject of the investigation, must be kept confidential until the House Committee on Ethics chooses to disclose it. 

Whitaker said a misappropriation of tax dollars — no matter the circumstances — merits an investigation. 

"We saw the media reports about (Meadows) paying a severance or paying an employee that wasn't on the books of his congressional office," he said. "And we knew that that was a violation of House rules, and so we felt it was a legitimate complaint to make against him."

But Farah said she thought early media coverage of the allegations lacked enough on-the-record sources. 

"While it’s unfortunate to see the ugly side of politics, it is not unexpected.”

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