HARRISBURG, Pa. - A day after Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Caltagirone denied accusations of sexual harassment against a former staffer, the state's governor said he stands by his call for the lawmaker to step down.
"I suggested he resign, and that’s what he should do," Gov. Tom Wolf told WFMZ's Katiera Winfrey in Harrisburg on Thursday.
The calls from Wolf and other Democrats for the veteran Berks County lawmaker to step down began Tuesday, after published reports that House Democrats spent nearly a quarter-million dollars in taxpayer money to secretly settle a sexual harassment complaint against Caltagirone.
The $248,000 payment went to settle a complaint in 2015 by a legislative staffer who worked for about a decade in Caltagirone's Reading office, according to a report published Tuesday afternoon by The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
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.
"I have denied all accusations from day one," Caltagirone said in a statement released Wednesday evening. "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 Caltagirone staying in office and his ability to serve his constituents, Wolf said: "It's up to the Reading community.
Caltagirone was elected to serve his 21st two-year term in 2016. He'll be up for reelection in 2018.
The money paid in Caltagirone's case is more than $514,000 in taxpayer money approved by the House Democratic caucus to settle claims by employees since 2007, according to state Rep. Frank Dermody, a Pittsburgh-area Democrat who leads his party's House caucus.
Wolf and the state's auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, said they only learned of the settlement this week, and both are calling for changes in how such payouts are made.
"Change things in the process so that will never happen again," Wolf told 69 News.
Wolf announced Wednesday that he has ordered the agency that runs a state government self-insurance program to make changes that would prevent using the fund for cases of abusive behavior by elected officials.
DePasquale also spoke out on the issue Wednesday, saying that taxpayer money shouldn't be used to settle sexual harassment claims against elected officials.
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