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07-Jan-2019 09:57

He released a heartfelt letter he wrote to her in May in which he wished her well, thanked God “for putting you into my life,” and signed it, “With all my heart, Patrick.” His comments in an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News were his first extensive response to a report Saturday that he used thousands of taxpayer dollars to quietly settle the harassment claim brought by the former aide. Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, also said that he initially reacted “poorly” when he found out that the longtime aide, decades younger, had begun a serious relationship with another man and might leave his office. Pat Meehan acknowledged Tuesday that he had a deep “affection” for a younger aide and told her last year that he saw her as “a soul mate,” but said he never pursued a romantic relationship with the woman and, despite paying her a secret settlement, denied her claims of sexual harassment.

But he denied harassing her, and said any hostility he may have exhibited stemmed from stress around high-pressure votes last year over the Affordable Care Act.He said that he sought to remain loyal to his wife, and that he used his office funds to settle the harassment claim so he and the aide could move on and keep the issue private.In the interview, Meehan answered nearly every question asked, but would not disclose the size of the payout, which he called “severance,” not a settlement.Asked why he chose to confidentially settle the claim using taxpayer money, Meehan said House attorneys advised him it was a practice that had been used before. He also said he would repay the public funds used to settle the case, if the Ethics Committee concluded he harassed her.

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“I looked at it the way somebody might look at the customary resolution of a matter in which we can allow the parties to move forward,” said Meehan, a former U. Meehan said he and the woman had worked together for years and that she was a critical hub in his office, a “gatekeeper.” That close working relationship, he said, led him to stronger feelings.

After professing his feelings to her one night last spring in Washington, he said, they exchanged a hug, as he said they often did, but “maybe longer that night than needed to be.” Feeling he had handled the news of her boyfriend “poorly,” Meehan later wrote her the two-page note, which he said was intended to clear the air and encourage her in her new relationship — and which his office shared with the Inquirer and Daily News on Tuesday.