Congress should force Watt to testify on sexual harassment allegations, lawyer says

by Ryan Smith23 Aug 2018

Congress should force the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency to testify regarding allegations of sexual harassment that have been leveled against him, says a lawyer representing his accuser.

In a letter to more than two dozen lawmakers, attorney Diane Seltzer Torre said that FHFA Director Mel Watt has refused to cooperate with an investigation into the allegations, according to a Politico report. Seltzer Torre also said that the FHFA and its inspector general have retaliated against her client, Simone Grimes.

Grimes, an FHFA special advisor, accused Watt last month of sexual harassment. Watt, an Obama appointee, denied the allegations and said the accusation was politically motivated.

On Monday, Grimes filed a federal lawsuit against the FHFA, seeking $1 million in damages. The lawsuit claims that Grimes received a smaller salary than the man who held her position before her, and that her rejection of Watt’s sexual overtures “was directly related” to the pay discrepancy, Politico reported.

FHFA Inspector General Laura Wertheimer is also named in the complaint. In a letter to the Senate Banking Committee, Seltzer Torre said that Watt and Wertheimer had a “nuanced and unusual relationship, and that relationship has been used as a means to perpetuate harassment, discrimination and retaliation against Ms. Grimes.”

Seltzer Torre accused the OIG of retaliating against Grimes for her accusations against Watt, and suggested that Watt and Wertheimer had “an overly cozy relationship.”

A spokesperson for Watt said he would not comment on the letters, Politico reported.