The Republican Party doesn’t have the greatest track record of listening to women, or respecting their opinions or letting them make private healthcare decisions without running interference at every turn. So it doesn't come as a surprise that North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows continued to pay his chief of staff, Kenny West, for six months after at least three women staffers complained that he was sexually harassing subordinates.
According to a report in the Huffington Post on Monday, Meadows was told by multiple women about his chief of staff’s behavior in March. The report says Meadows barred West from his D.C. office but reassigned him to an office in the 11th congressional district, and continued paying him; West has since been released with a “sizable severance.”
The report says that payments made to West after the complaints were filed—a full of rate of $38,750 for the period of April 1 through June 30, and continued payment through August 15—could have violated House Ethics rules. The Foundation of Accountability and Civic Trust has asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate West’s severance payment.
A source quoted in the HuffPo report said he warned Meadows about hiring West as his chief of staff after personally observing West’s behavior towards women.
“His behavior didn’t change in the congressional office,” the source said. “I’ve heard that basically since day one. I don’t know if it’s his personality, but I know he paws on people. And I do know within his office, there have been a lot of complaints. As one of his staffers told me, ‘The son of a bitch has had a complaint on him by every woman in our office.”
Another source says “[West] would thump his Bible all holier than thou and then make off-color comments…I know for a fact and I’ve heard from at least three of the women that he was completely inappropriate and complaints were filed [with Meadows.]”
And a third source says West often made women uncomfortable by insisting they hold hands and pray with him.
Meadows was elected to the district seat in 2012, after it was heavily altered under redistricting. The seat, which covers several counties in the western part of the state, had formerly been occupied by Democratic congressman Heath Shuler.
In Congress, Meadows has championed Tea Party causes, opposing everything from the federal stimulus, to increasing taxes, to gun control restrictions, to the Affordable Care Act, to gay marriage and abortion. He’s been one of several Republicans in the House leading the charge to defund Planned Parenthood.
The Huffington Post reports on some other strange transactions between Meadows and West. West ran against Meadows in the 2012 GOP primary, hinting at a character flaw that West said made Meadows unfit for office, but never discussed publicly. When it was clear his own campaign had failed, West endorsed Meadows and Meadows began making payments to West out of his campaign account three weeks after the general election.
Here's a video of Meadows questioning Planned Parenthood's CEO, Cecile Richards, in a congressional hearing last week.
Meadows' office has not yet responded to INDY Week's request for comment