Two Democratic representatives broke ranks with their fellows and accused House Speaker Robert DeLeo of concealing sexual harassment claims in the chamber through a series of non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements.
Rep. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen said the House has relied on carefully worded contracts and severance payouts to hide allegations of misbehavior, according to the Boston Globe. On the chamber’s floor, she accused DeLeo of enabling inappropriate conduct by obscuring the nature of employees’ departures: “They cover up misdeeds by politicians and others, and they empower perpetrators to move from one victim to the next.”
She was joined by another legislator in her concerns. Rep. Angelo Scaccia, a Boston Democrat and the longest-serving legislator in the House, supported DiZoglio’s accusations and called for Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate DeLeo’s use of the agreements. Scaccia, who has been in office since 1981, said based on his experiences, these practices are unique to DeLeo, according to CommonWealth Magazine.
DeLeo said in a statement that since January 1, 2010, 33 departing House employees “were offered a small severance payment in exchange for executing a written agreement.” None of these employees, according to DeLeo, settled following sexual harassment complaints. DiZoglio disputes that claim, and offered her personal story as evidence to the contrary.
She said her work environment turned hostile in 2011 while she was an aide in the midst of rumors that she engaged in inappropriate activity with a state representative. Against the advice of the speaker’s office and despite an investigation that cleared her name, DiZoglio’s boss terminated her employment. After DeLeo’s staff failed to find her temporary work, DiZoglio said she “decided to settle and take the small severance pay,” according to CommonWealth. However, before being compensated, DiZoglio said the speaker’s office asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and she did so “under duress.”
In a statement, DeLeo said neither he, nor any members of his staff, were aware of DiZoglio’s allegations of sexual harassment at the time of the incident. He acknowledged that representatives from his office met with her three times in 2011, but said DiZoglio did not level accusations of harassment during any of those encounters. In the statement, DeLeo “unequivocally” denied that anyone affiliated with his office “instructed Representative DiZoglio that she was prohibited from speaking” about her experiences as an employee.
On Thursday, the House passed an amendment waiving previous non-disclosure agreements but left open the possibility that such contracts could be used in the future, according to the Globe.
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