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GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan resigns from Congress amid ethics investigation

GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan resigns from Congress amid ethics investigation
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) speaks on Capitol Hill in 2013. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), who previously announced his retirement from Congress following reports he had paid a secret settlement to a staffer who accused him of harassment, resigned outright Friday.

His resignation came as the House Ethics Committee continued a probe into his behavior that could have resulted in serious sanctions. The former aide, a younger woman, alleged that Meehan had confessed romantic feelings for her after she became involved with another man. Meehan, she alleged, later retaliated after she repelled his advances.

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"I have decided that stepping down now is in the interest of the constituents I have been honored to serve," Meehan said in a statement. "While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry. And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff."

Meehan said that within 30 days he will repay taxpayers for the $39,000 settlement that was paid as a severance payment to his former staffer.

"I did not want to leave with any question of violating the trust of taxpayers," he said, adding: "Though I wish my time in Congress would have finished in a more satisfying manner, I am proud of our accomplishments and thank the residents of my District for their confidence in me over the last eight years. I recognize that there are constituents who are disappointed in the manner in which I handled the situation that [led] to my decision not to seek re-election and wish I had done better by them."

The statement said Meehan "has no future plans to discuss at this time."

Meehan's departure could prompt a special election in his suburban Philadelphia district. That decision will be made by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who is also considering whether to hold a special election in the Allentown-area district that Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) is expected to vacate later this year.

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