Dem Rep. John Conyers is facing more accusations of sexual misconduct including showing up to a meeting in underwear and verbally abusing a lawyer that worked for him.
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As reported in Freep
A lawyer who formerly worked for U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, and later ran an ethics watchdog group in the nation’s capital confirmed for the Free Press on Thursday that Conyers verbally abused her, criticized her appearance and once showed up to a meeting in his underwear.
Melanie Sloan, a well-known Washington lawyer who for three years in the 1990s worked as Democratic counsel on the House Judiciary Committee, where Conyers remains the ranking Democrat, told the Free Press that Conyers constantly berated her, screaming at her and firing her and then rehiring her several times.
She said he criticized her for not wearing stockings on at least one occasion. On another, she said he ordered her backstage from a committee field hearing on crime she had organized in New York City to babysit one of his children. Sloan made clear that she did not feel she had ever been sexually harassed, but that she felt “mistreated by this guy.”
“I’m no shrinking violet,” said Sloan, who went on to become the executive director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and later to open Triumph Strategy, a public affairs firm specializing in crisis response. “His constant stream of abuse was difficult to handle and it was certainly damaging to my self-respect and self-esteem.”
“It made me increasingly anxious and depressed about going to work every day. And there was no way to fix it. There was no mechanism I could use, no person I could go to,” she said.
Sloan said that she approached several people, including committee staff, a reporter, and a high-ranking member of then-House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt’s staff about Conyers’ behavior but was told nothing could be done. She also said that on occasion she had been described to someone as “mentally unstable” for making the claims.
Sloan came forward, she said, because a Washington Post reporter contacted her about the recently revealed allegations against Conyers that he sexually harassed female members of his staff, rubbing and touching them inappropriately and making sexual advances. Conyers, 88, has denied all the allegations and on Wednesday, his lawyer, Arnold Reed of Southfield, told CNN that Conyers has no plans to resign even with an Ethics Committee investigation into his behavior under way.
Sloan — who becomes the first former employee of Conyers to publicly allege misbehavior by the congressman, a civil rights legend and longtime advocate for the poor and underprivileged — said her first inclination was to talk without using her name.
“Then I thought, ‘This is what’s wrong in Washington. No one will ever say anything publicly,’ ” she said, noting the widespread rumors of misconduct across the nation’s capital and a system that encourages people who are abused to stay quiet for fear of hurting their careers by not appearing loyal to people in power.
Sloan said she also decided to talk because some of what happened to her was consistent with the allegations against Conyers, specifically that he asked members of his staff — whose salaries are paid by taxpayers — to babysit. In 2003, the Free Press first reported on similar complaints among other employees in Conyers’ office. A follow-up Ethics Committee report was ultimately issued with Conyers — who continued to deny the accusations — eventually reaching a deal to ensure staff knew where their responsibilities began and ended.
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