House ethics subcommittee impaneled in investigation into Blake Farenthold

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, at a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 19, 2013. AP PHOTO/JACQUELYN MARTIN

(CBS) – The House Ethics Committee says it has unanimously voted to establish an investigative panel to examine sexual harassment allegations against Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas.

The committee says it will investigate whether Farenthold sexually harassed a former member of his staff and retaliated against her for complaining.

Lauren Greene is a former communications director in the congressman’s office. She alleged in a 2014 federal lawsuit that she was sexually harassed and fired soon after complaining of a hostile work environment.

Farenthold said when the case was settled in 2015 that he didn’t engage in any wrongdoing. He said he would repay the money.

The committee has reviewed more than 200,000 pages of materials and interviewed multiple witnesses. It says that in light of recent developments, it considers it appropriate to continue the work.

The announcement comes as Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks announced he would be resigning from Congress, after the House Ethics Committee announced it would be investigating whether his behavior constituted sexual harassment. Franks, in a statement, said he discussed surrogacy with two former female subordinates, when he and his wife faced fertility.

“I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress,’ Franks said in his statement.

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