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Where does the money come from for sexual harassment settlements against state lawmakers?
In the midst of the Me Too movement, it came to light that members of the Pennsylvania Legislature had used government funds to settle allegations of sexual harassment and keep those claims quiet.
In one instance, Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks County, allegedly paid nearly $250,000 to a legislative staffer to settle a sexual harassment claim made against him, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
According to the Post-Gazette, the money for that claim came from the state Employee Liability Self-Insurance Program and was processed by the state Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management.
BRIM manages the state’s self-insurance plan and contracts with third-party insurance companies for the state, meaning it handles a fund of money used to pay claims and lawsuits against the state.
This money is used to pay for things such as damages to state-owned property that wouldn’t be covered under other insurance programs, as well lawsuit settlements and tort claims filed against the state or one of its employees, according to the BRIM website.
A sexual harassment claim could fall under one of these categories.
BRIM is part of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.
The Department of General Services received a roughly $1.3 million allocation in the state’s 2017-18 general fund budget for “excess insurance coverage” and roughly $53 million for “general government operations.”
Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware County, has introduced a bill aimed at stopping taxpayer funded payments for settlements of sexual harassment claims against Legislature members.
House Bill 1965, among other provisions, would bar nondisclosure agreements, which can effectively hide the identity of people accused of sexual harassment who have made a financial payment to the victim.
The bill also prohibits taxpayer funds to be used toward settlements.
Krueger-Braneky’s bill was sent to the House Labor and Industry Committee in January and has not been brought up for a vote.
Gov. Tom Wolf has also announced he would take steps to prevent sexual harassment claims from being paid for from the state insurance funds.
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