Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, should resign over an alleged sexual harassment scandal, his home-town Detroit Free Press says in an editorial. The newspaper calls him an “undisputed hero of the civil rights movement” but also an “aging icon whose felonious wife and sometimes-wandering pace have confounded his place in history.” The newspaper concludes that, “He should resign his position and allow the investigation into his behavior to unfold without the threat that it would render him, and the people he now represents, effectively voiceless.”
On Monday, BuzzFeed reported a former Conyers staffer’s claims that she was fired after she rebuffed the congressman’s persistent sexual advances. Those claims were made in sworn affidavits by the alleged victim and three other former staffers. Conyers denies the claim, but his office decided that if the woman dropped her complaint and signed a legal document attesting that Conyers had done no wrong, and if she agreed never to disparage him or make subsequent claims, she’d be re-hired as a temporary “no-show” employee and paid $27,111.75 over three months. House ethics rules are clear, saying that a member can’t retain an employee who isn’t performing work commensurate with the pay and can’t give back pay for work that stretches further than a month. The payment in this case “looks an awful lot like hush money,” the Free Press says.