State watchdog: End taxpayer payouts in sex-misconduct cases

'We need to put a stop to it'

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's independently elected fiscal watchdog said taxpayer money shouldn't be used to settle sexual harassment claims against elected officials.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, said Wednesday that the practice should stop.

"Taxpayer money should never be used to settle sexual harassment claims against an elected official," he said. "As a former legislator, I know that many members, including myself, were unaware that these payments were made. We need to put a stop to it."

DePasquale's comments came a day after The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first revealed that Pennsylvania taxpayers funded a $248,000 settlement in 2015 over a former legislative aide's claims of sexual harassment against longtime state Rep. Tom Caltagirone, a Berks County Democrat.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is calling for Caltagirone to resign.

Caltagirone is not returning phone calls, and House officials aren't saying which lawmakers knew about the settlement.

House Democratic leader Frank Dermody said there was a non-disclosure agreement and Wolf's administration said the governor didn't know about the Caltagirone settlement until Tuesday.

The money paid in the Caltagirone settlement is part of $514,300 in payouts approved by the House Democratic caucus since 2007, according to Dermody.

"It is outrageous that the public is just now learning that the House of Representatives used more than half a million dollars of taxpayer money since 2007 to settle claims by employees," DePasquale said.

The auditor general singled out state Rep. Robert Freeman, a Northampton County Democrat, and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers for introducing and sponsoring legislation to allow DePasquale's office to audit the General Assembly and legislative agencies.

"It is unfortunate that House Bill 1257 has been stuck in the Finance Committee since April 20," DePasquale said. "If the General Assembly would have allowed me to conduct an audit, we may have already uncovered this abuse of taxpayer funds."

DePasquale sent a letter Wednesday to leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives, offering his office's auditing services.

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