House Ethics Committee Opens Probes Into Franks, Farenthold

Bech Bruun has served as a board member of the Texas Water Development Board since

The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it was opening an investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold, almost a week after revelations that the Texas Republican paid a sexual harassment settlement with taxpayers' money.

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The committee will determine whether Farenthold violated standards of conduct, or broke the law in dealing with the allegations brought by his former spokesperson, Lauren Greene, in 2014.

In a statement Thursday night, Farenthold said he was "relieved" by the panel's move.

She had accused the congressman of making sexually suggestive comments to her, and said he had told another aide he had sexual fantasies about Greene, according to news reports.

"Once all the facts are released, I'm confident this matter will once and for all be settled and resolved", Farenthold said. "This investigation increases the transparency the public deserves and what I've wanted since the beginning".

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Greene's case was settled and the lawsuit dropped, Politico reported. "I think I did the right thing". "I'm also pleased the Committee on Ethics recognizes, as per their statement, that I have cooperated fully with the committee's investigation and has acknowledged a decision has been delayed because of difficulty obtaining live testimony from other witnesses". It will also examine whether Farenthold discriminated against the former staffer based on her gender - and retaliated against her for complaining about discrimination.

Farenthold subsequently said he was taking out a personal loan to cover the settlement's costs.

In a separate statement Thursday, a Farenthold spokeswoman said he "categorically denies that there were any other investigations".

The funds were paid for the Office of Compliance in Congress, whose budget is financed via the Treasury Department through the budget appropriations process. While Farenthold hasn't admitted to any wrongdoing, he recently said he'd pay the government back the $84,000 he used to settle the claim.

Farenthold, who is seeking re-election next year, was sued in federal court by his former communications director on grounds that he and a senior staffer made unwanted advances and created a toxic, sexually charged work environment.

In his response to Greene's complaint, Farenthold alleged that she was sacked for "poor performance".

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