READING, Pa. - Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Caltagirone is speaking out, a day after published reports revealed that House Democrats spent nearly a quarter-million dollars in taxpayer money to secretly settle a sexual harassment complaint against him
"What I would like my constituents to know is that I have maintained, and will continue to maintain, my innocence in this issue," Caltagirone said in a statement released Wednesday evening. "More importantly, I have denied all accusations from day one. I wanted my day in court but counsel implored the parties to settle because of the high cost of litigating any complaint, legitimate or not."
As for calls from Gov. Tom Wolf and other fellow Democrats for him to step down, Caltagirone replied: "I will not resign. I plan to serve and continue to make sure that the citizens of Reading have a voice in Harrisburg."
Caltagirone went on to say that an independent agency needs to be created to serve as the central clearinghouse for all workplace complaints within state government, including the Legislature, the administration, and the judiciary.
"This new agency needs to be free of political interference, so that it would be able to conduct independent investigations into complaints," Caltagirone said. "I think it is critical to provide all staff and our constituents with a safe environment — one free from hostilities, bigotry, sexual harassment, discrimination, threats of physical harm or retaliation against staff for the actions of their member. I have made it my life's work in the legislature to fight for crime victims, children and our most vulnerable citizens."
The $248,000 payment involving Caltagirone went to settle a complaint in 2015 against him by a legislative staffer who worked for about a decade in his Reading office, according to the newspapers' report.
The papers 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 woman and her lawyer declined comment.
The year after the settlement, Caltagirone won reelection to his 21st two-year term in Harrisburg, where he currently serves as Democratic chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee.
The papers said it was unclear whether Caltagirone was disciplined or reprimanded after the payout.
Despite the calls for him to resign, the 75-year-old Caltagirone said he plans to press on.
"I am one of only four Democrats in the House or Senate to have a bill signed into law by the governor in 2017," Caltagirone said. "As long as I am blessed to represent my friends and neighbors, I will do my level best to make sure Reading has a seat at the table.
"In conclusion, I will be the first to admit that I am not perfect; but I work every day to be a better person than I was the day before and a better public voice for the people I am honored to serve. And as I have done for the past 41 years, I will continue to work to be part of the solution in Harrisburg."
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