Glenn bill bans use of tax dollars to pay sexual harassment claims

Lansing, Mich. -- Using taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim against a state or local government official -- as Congress did to settle a claim against former Congressman John Conyers, D-Detroit -- would be outlawed under legislation introduced Wednesday by a Bay County lawmaker.

Associate Speaker Pro Tem Gary Glenn, R-Williams Twp., the sponsor of House Bill 5405, said he was astounded by news of Conyers' tax-financed payoff and "never imagined a law was necessary for the government to know it's wrong to use our tax dollars to cover for a public official's misconduct in office."

"A public official who's guilty of sexual harassment can be pressured to resign as Conyers did, fired, recalled, or voted out at the next election if he refuses, or sued as an individual, but in no case should already overburdened taxpayers be forced to pay the tab for a public official's abusive behavior," Glenn said.

Glenn's legislation, other than language defining various terms, is comprised of just one sentence:

"A public entity shall not make an expenditure of public funds to settle a claim or action involving sexual harassment in which a public official is the alleged perpetrator or defendant."

Glenn said any settlement in a case involving an elected or appointed public official should be paid "out of the guilty public official's pocket, not taxpayers' pockets."

He noted that the Washington Post reported in November that over the last twenty years, Congress has paid more than $17 million from public funds for 264 settlements and awards to federal employees for violations of various employment rules, including sexual harassment, an example he said the state should not follow.