On Friday, news broke that Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.
According to an article from Politico, Watt is being accused by an FHFA staffer of repeatedly making inappropriate sexual advances when she tried to discuss career and salary concerns. The employee is currently a special adviser at the FHFA and has been with the agency since December 2014, according to the reporting.
From the article:
The conversations included a 2016 meeting during which Watt steered the discussion to his feelings for the woman, according to documents and partial transcripts of tapes obtained by POLITICO. In a separate encounter, Watt asked about a tattoo on her ankle, saying, “If I kissed that one would it lead to more?"
The employee’s lawyer, Diane Seltzer Torre, confirmed the investigation after POLITICO received copies of the documents related to the case.
According to Politico’s reporting, the employee has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint and an investigator working for the U.S. Postal Service, which is handling the case, declined to comment. Additionally, the FHFA inspector general’s office also declined to comment to Politico.
The documents show that the employee claims a promotion was withheld from her because she reported the harassment, according to Politico.
Under the EEO guidelines, federal agencies have 180 days to investigate a complaint before the accuser is able to file a lawsuit. The investigation into Watt has been under way for at least a month, according to documents obtained by Politico.
Watt released the following statement, claiming the leaks in this investigation are politically motivated and that he will not comment further on the investigation as it proceeds.
"The selective leaks related to this matter are obviously intended to embarrass or to lead to an unfounded or political conclusion. However, I am confident that the investigation currently in progress will confirm that I have not done anything contrary to law. I will have no further comment while the investigation is in progress,” he said.
According to Politico, in an April 2016 transcript, a person identified as Watt arranged for the two to meet outside the office “because of perceptions” and the conversation took place on the drive from the FHFA to a nearby restaurant.
From the report:
“Well, you probably want to know what I wanted to talk to you about,” Watt said. “I mentioned to you there is an attraction here that I think needs to be explored. In my experience there are four types of attraction: emotional, spiritual, sexual or of friendship. So, the exercise here is to find out which one exists here.”
The woman then tried to shut down the conversation.
“If I gave you that impression in any way, that was not intentional,” she said. “My impression was that you wanted to discuss the work-related items I’ve been talking to [a superior] about. But, if that’s not the case, then I think I should take you back to FHFA. Because I don’t want any confusion here.”
Politico reports that in another transcript dated June 17, 2016, Watt asked the employee about her ankle tattoo and suggested kissing it.
According to the transcript, the employee asked “Is that what we’re here to talk about? Because I already told you I don’t want to have conversations like that with you,” with Watt replying: “No, no,” and immediately redirecting the conversation to “resolv[ing] the pay situation you’ve been bringing up.”The documents show that the employee claims a promotion was withheld from her because she reported the harassment, according to Politico.