If This Man Was a Stooge, We Need Not Three but 300 More Like Him

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld suspended his little noticed campaign for the Republican nomination for president one week ago today.

He had pursued the prize for over year and, at the end, had only one committed delegate to show for all that time and effort.

Donald Trump made it a policy to ignore Weld's candidacy, never bothering even to slur him on Twitter with one of the nasty-but-catchy nicknames he likes to deploy, like "Low Energy Jeb," "Little Marco" and "Sleepy Joe."

The closest Weld, 74, got to eliciting Trump's contumely was to be lumped by the Tweeter-in-Chief together with the other Republican primary challengers, Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh, as "The Three Stooges."  Sanford and Walsh both left the race before Weld did.

Weld seemed to be paying Trump back with the same coin of indifference by not mentioning the president by name in his written withdrawal (or suspension) statement.  At the outset of the Weld campaign, things were much different.  The old Brahmin laced hard into Trump then.

When announcing his candidacy, Weld said Trump "has difficulty conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law.  That's a serious matter in the oval office." He added:

"...we have a president whose priorities are skewed toward promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country.  He may have great energy and considerable raw talent, but he does not use them in ways that promote democracy, truth, justice and equal opportunity for all.  To compound matters, our president is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office -- which include the specific duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed -- in a competent and professional manner.  He is simply in the wrong place."

Weld ran a serious campaign based on the propositions that (a) Trump had flouted the Constitution and undermined the rule of law, (b) the U.S. needed to strengthen relationships with traditional allies, (c) climate change had to be arrested by putting a price on carbon emissions, and (d) federal budget deficits of more than a trillion dollars a year are irresponsible in the extreme and must be stopped.

After no Republicans voted to impeach Trump, and only one Republican (former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney) voted guilty on one article of impeachment during Trump's trial in the Senate, we did not need further proof that Trump has taken over the GOP like Sherman took over Georgia.  But that's what we got when Weld had one delegate in hand after 13 months of campaigning.

Bringing down the curtain, Weld said, "Thousands of supporters and donors from across the country joined our cause, working day and night to promote strong, experienced, decent leadership for the United States.  They were determined and indefatigable in their efforts to give Americans a better choice in the 2020 presidential election.  Leading this movement has been one of the greatest honors of my life, and I will be forever indebted to all who have played a part."

You can laugh at Bill Weld for thinking he could be president.

You can dismiss him as a relic of a far different political era.

You can ignore that he dared to dream greatly of undoing Trumpism.

But how can you not, at least for a moment, stop and admire a person of principle who, with no one truly powerful backing him and with a slim-to-zero chance of victory, undertakes a campaign to wrest the leadership of his ancestral party from a Republican-come-lately incumbent he believes has besmirched it, and brings that campaign, in painful slow motion, ultimately to a condition of nothingness, and yet afterwards declares it "one of the greatest honors" of his long life to have led that effort?

Code for Hoarding: 'Unprecedented Volume of Customers' KO's Bottle Bill.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

If you've been to a supermarket in the last several days, you know shoppers are hoarding stuff because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Everywhere, it seems, there are empty shelves where the canned goods used to be and empty cases where the frozen vegetables used to be, to name just two categories of suddenly scarce foodstuffs.

This morning at a Stop & Shop, I watched wide-eyed as panicky elders swarmed and overwhelmed two employees trying to move rolls of toilet paper from a pallet to a shelf.

"You can't stop them," one employee cried to the other as a little old man pulled an eight-pack of the precious paper from his hands.

Hoarding has now forced the state to suspend the Bottle Bill -- although that is not the way the Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of the Attorney General phrased it in a joint announcement of the suspension yesterday.

They were much more, how do I say, "delicate."

MassDEP and the AG said they were temporarily suspending enforcement of "the requirements for retailers to accept beverage containers that have a deposit" because "many grocers, supermarkets, and other retail operations have indicated that they are overwhelmed with an unprecedented volume of customers purchasing provisions so they can spend time at home to help in the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19."  They asserted that the suspension "will allow individual retailers to assess their operations and, if necessary and appropriate, shift staffing to enable smoother operations."

This action "will also limit any contamination that potentially could occur from staff handling used beverage containers," they said.

"Consumers are encouraged to hold on to their deposit containers for redemption at a later date," MassDEP and the AG stated, "or to recycle those containers with existing household recycling" -- in other words, to abandon their deposit money to the state.

The suspension took effect immediately, meaning on Wednesday, March 18, and will remain in effect until further notice, or until the current state of emergency is lifted.

The Bottle Bill, or Beverage Container Recovery Law, as it is formally known, was enacted 37 years ago.  It requires consumers to pay a five-cent-per-container deposit on most beverages sold here.  

To get an idea of the financial impacts of the law, I did an online search, typing in "unclaimed bottle bill deposits in Massachusetts."

One of the first things that popped up was a study from the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), which showed that, in calendar year 2015, more than a billion containers were turned in for recycling in Massachusetts.

That year, Massachusetts consumers collected $62.3 million in container deposit refunds and the state got to keep $43.4 million in unclaimed deposits, the study found.

The CRI study also found that the Bottle Bill generated between $85 million and $151 million in economic activity here and supported more than 2,000 jobs, including at least 1,480 directly related to recycling.

Always Room for Improvement but 'Blue Economy' Is Anything But Depressed

Friday, March 13, 2020

Second of two parts

Beverly Harbor will be getting a new pier and a new hoist to better serve commercial fishing vessels.

Fairhaven will proceed with the fourth phase of a long-running project to reconstruct a pier that's  critical to a booming New Bedford Harbor, where the value of all the fish landed is greater than in any other U.S. port.

Gloucester will update its 2014 Harbor/Designated Port Area Master Plan to strengthen the city's traditional seafood industry, while exploring new opportunities in marine research, marine development and life sciences.

And Dennis will begin a two-stage project to upgrade a municipal marina at Sesuit Harbor, one of the few spots on the north side of Cape Cod accessible to recreational and commercial fleets, no matter the height or depth of the tide.

These were among nine projects funded in the latest round of grants from the state's Seaport Economic Council, totaling just under $3 million, as announced on Feb. 25 by the Baker-Polito administration.

These grants, the administration asserted, will help advance the mission of the Seaport Economic Development Council "to support working waterfronts, local tourism, coastal resilience, maritime innovation, and the Commonwealth's robust Blue Economy."

Robust indeed.

The Massachusetts fishing and seafood industries combined are a big, multi-billion-dollar-a-year deal.  When you include such things as shoreside support positions, seafood processors, restaurant workers, shippers and the like, there are about 90,000 jobs in fishing and seafood.

The value of the fish landed in one year in New Bedford tops out at $389 million, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

All the ports of Massachusetts collectively land more fish than any other state except Alaska, which is 73 times larger than Massachusetts.

"Our coastal assets are incredibly important to the state's overall economic health," states Governor Charlie Baker.

As an advocate for Fishing Partnership Support Services, a non-profit striving to improve the health, safety and economic security of commercial fishermen, I pay close attention to this stuff because it helps fishermen and their families, and of course the fishing industry itself, on which the original prosperity of Massachusetts was built.

But the other winning projects in these Seaport Economic Council grant contests sometimes fascinate me equally.  Take the grant Salem just got to identify and implement near-term improvements needed to keep the Salem Wharf Deepwater Berth functioning optimally.

This facility was used for years in importing coal to Salem's old, polluting seaside power plant, which was replaced several years ago by a smaller, cleaner plant burning natural gas.  The refurbished coal ship wharf now regularly hosts cruise ships, from which visitors debark to enjoy historic Salem's many attractions, such as the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Maritime Historic Site, and the House of Seven Gables, not to mention the city's many fine restaurants.  Cruise ships for coal ships was a good trade for the Witch City.

There are 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.  Of those municipalities, 78 are located on the coast.

Since 2015, the Seaport Economic Council has made grant investments totaling more than $44 million in 42 of those communities that touch the ocean.

Back in the summer of 2017, I was interviewing Senator Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, for a video we were doing on the 20th anniversary of Fishing Partnership Support Services, www.fishingpartnership.org

Montigny's a true son of New Bedford, born and brought up there, and an old-fashioned lunchpail Democrat.  When he was in high school, he and his friends would often find work as day laborers on the busy docks of New Bedford.

We got to talking about how big commercial fishing still is in his city.  "People sometimes tell me we could be another Newport (Rhode Island), with hotels and condos and fancy restaurants and all that, and that that would be great for our economy," Montigny said.

"I always say to them, 'You don't know what you're talking about!  We already have a strong economy.  And it's a better economy, with better jobs for working people, than what you're dreaming up."

For the sake of our fishermen, of the communities they built hundreds of years ago, and of the unique local cultures and traditions they created, we should all hope that New Bedford does not become another Newport.

On the Need to Keep the 'Sacred Cod' and 'Holy Mackerel' Relevant

Saturday, March 7, 2020

First of two parts

A little over a week ago, the Baker-Polito administration announced the award of $3 million in grants to coastal municipalities to enhance the state's maritime economy.

There were nine grants in all, spread among seven communities: Beverly, Dartmouth, Dennis, Fairhaven, Gloucester, Mattapoisett and Salem.  Mattapoisett and Salem each got two.

The largest grant, $1 million, will be used to replace the sheet wall at the Union Wharf in Fairhaven.  And the smallest, $64,000, will pay for a study assessing the demand for, and financial feasibility of, a new small-boat marina and dock facility at Dias Landing in Dartmouth.

For a long time, I have proudly lobbied for a non-profit that works to improve the health, safety and economic security of commercial fishermen, Fishing Partnership Support Services, www.fishingpartnership.org

I'm in synch with the thinking behind these grants -- not because they will do anything for FPSS but rather because of what some of these grants may do to preserve working waterfronts and prevent their conversion to luxury housing and other uses preferred by the wealthy: fancy hotels, spas, restaurants, boutiques and the like.

I am not against wealthy people nor am I against their using their money to enjoy life as they see fit.  I just don't want them enjoying it in exclusive, monochromatic enclaves that have supplanted outworn, outdated or faded enterprises, which, because of their unique geographic situation, could have evolved industrially, saving and creating solid blue-collar jobs. Build your enclaves elsewhere, I say.

A couple of years ago, I and a few others were in a conversation one morning with a top official in the Baker-Polito administration on the need for incentives to optimize the redevelopment of dilapidated properties in the state's 14 designated port areas.  Those incentives, we averred, should favor projects that preserve marine industries or reconfigure them to meet new needs in commercial fishing and seafood processing.

Rightly playing the role of devil's advocate, this official said he heard similar arguments all the time from persons in local government and local chambers of commerce who want the state to offer incentives to developers of projects in depressed downtown business districts.

He asked us, "How are those downtowns any different from fishing ports or fishing communities?  If we are going to do something for you, how do we not -- why do we not -- do something for them?"He didn't have to mention that state resources are limited and that somebody has to get aced out.

Now, I'm one of those guys who always knows what to say later...after the crucial moment has passed.  In response that day, I said something to the effect of "people will always be selling stuff" in the cities and towns of Massachusetts, but local people "won't always be catching fish in our oceans if we don't have good, local port infrastructures."  The conversation then moved on.

It bothered me that I hadn't been persuasive, that I hadn't made the impact I wished for in that moment.  So, the next day, I sat down in my office and typed up a personal letter to that official, a man I greatly admire and dare to think I might be able to make an impression upon on a good day.  I still have a copy of it in my computer.  In part, that letter says:

"Had I perspicacity, I would have said something like this:  The coast is finite, while the human appetite for being by the ocean is infinite.  But, unlike someone who purchases a condo by the sea, a fisherman must be on the coast.  Once our fishing ports are given over entirely to residential, recreational, hospitality and other non-marine industrial uses, local fishermen will not be able to operate there.  Local fishermen will have to give up their trade and their time-honored, independent way of life.

"When the groundfish stocks off Massachusetts have fully rebounded, as they will, corporately owned fishing fleets will harvest those fish if our local groundfishermen are no longer around.  Corporations will reap the benefits of the enormous sacrifices made by our indigenous blue-collar workforce during the previous four or five decades!

"There will always be the possibility of establishing new enterprises and new, desirable uses in down-turning downtowns that benefit those disadvantaged and left behind by our economy, but there will never be the possibility of re-establishing local, independent, small commercial fishing businesses in our coastal communities once they've been made over with marinas for recreational boaters, yacht clubs, million-dollar estates, condos, apartments and high-rent mixed use developments.

"We have a 'Sacred Cod' and a 'Holy Mackerel' hanging in the chambers of our legislature at the State House, * not a sacred retailer!"

*There are models of these fishes atop the House Chamber (cod) and Senate Chamber (mackerel) -- reminders that fishing was the founding industry and an early generator of fortunes in the Commonwealth.

NEXT:  A look at some of the facts and interesting details of latest maritime economy grants.

T Should Think Customer Safety When Using Fees on Uber, Lyft

Friday, February 14, 2020

Governor Baker wants to raise tens of millions of dollars for the MBTA by hitting transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft with a five-fold increase in the state-mandated fees they charge consumers.

Currently, the Commonwealth levies a fee of 20 cents on every ride provided by one of these companies.

Baker, in his proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021), would hike that to one dollar per ride, with 70 cents going to the state and the remainder to the state's 351 cities and towns through local aid disbursements.

If the proposal, as is, gets through the legislature -- where members are already talking about a higher per-ride fee than a dollar -- Baker estimates it could generate $73 million next year for the MBTA and a variety of MassDOT projects.

Uber, Lyft, et al. are ride share market giants in Massachusetts.  They're growing faster than hothouse marijuana: In FY 2019, they provided over 81 million rides here, 25% more than the previous year.

At a State House budget hearing this past Tuesday, Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael Heffernan said the total number of ride share bookings in the current fiscal year (2020) is projected to be around 98 million.  That would work out to an average of 268,493 rides per day!

Given the contributions made unavoidably by network transportation fleets to Greater Boston's spirit-crushing traffic congestion and to the greenhouse gases polluting our air, it makes sense to impose higher per-ride state fees on them to improve public transit and thereby make it better and more rider-friendly.

Given the serious harms threatening our Commonwealth because of global warming, we might want to consider additional measures impacting this industry, such as no state fees if consumers book rides with electric vehicles in these networks.

There's a selfish reason I support taking one dollar (or more!) from Uber or Lyft for every provided ride, and I should come clean about it.

One, I don't want to die under the wheels of a hired car driven by a jumpy guy whose eyes are glued to the screen of the smart phone on his dashboard, and, two, I want some of the proceeds from this fee hike used to improve safety in the passenger drop-off and pick-up areas around MBTA stations.

Particularly, I have in mind the Washington Street side of Oak Grove Station in Malden, the northern terminus of the Orange Line, where my wife picks me up after work.  It's become a jungle out there between 5:00 and 6:00 most nights.

Poor old Ralph Nader would keel over if he ever saw what defenseless pedestrians must confront nightly at Oak Grove: a unpredictable swarm of hired cars rushing to the station from all directions like nectar-crazed bees to a field of wildflowers.  These drivers seem to specialize in stopping abruptly in crosswalks and walkways, blocking and sometimes even driving against the flow of cars exiting the station, backing up and pulling out without looking, and sometimes even live-parking amidst moving traffic, then stepping out and calling helplessly to the unknown persons who summoned them.

I don't think it would take much to improve situations like this at Oak Grove and other stations. Take a big chunk of the new transportation network vehicle fees and hire police details, local or MBTA police, it doesn't matter.  Have those officers patrol on foot the pick-up/drop-off zones every other night at rush hour, with authority to issue $100-$300 citations to reckless drivers and/or drivers who create or exacerbate unsafe conditions, knowingly or not.  Word would get around fast.

Idle Speculation on a Prophecy as Romney Nears Historic Impeachment Vote

Monday, February 3, 2020

The U.S. Senate is getting ready to find President Trump innocent of the charges against him in the House articles of impeachment and all I can think of is a certain former governor of Massachusetts.

What will Mitt Romney, now a U.S. Senator from Utah, do when they call his name in the Senate roll call on impeachment this Wednesday?

I can't help but think that Mitt is giving some thought to the "White Horse Prophecy," which holds that one day the U.S. Constitution will be hanging by a thread and a member (or members) of The Church of Latter-day Saints (the "Saints") will save the nation.

The Saints officially keep the White Horse Prophecy at arms length.  But I put stock in the recollection of one of Romney's distant relatives and fellow Saints, Judith Freeman, who pointed out that the prophecy "is something every child growing up in a Mormon household in the 1950s had drilled into their heads." [OPINION: Will Mitt Romney fulfill a Mormon 'prophecy' and save the Constitution?, Los Angeles Times, 10-19-2019.]

Switching gears, let's consider what one of Romney's Republican colleagues, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said when explaining his vote with the Senate majority against calling witnesses and seeking additional evidence for Trump's Senate trial:

"The Senate reflects the country, and the country is as divided as it has been for a long time.  For the Senate to tear up the ballots in this election and say President Trump couldn't be on it, the country probably wouldn't accept that.  It would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there.

"I think he (Trump) did something that was clearly inappropriate...it is inappropriate for the president to ask the leader of a foreign nation to investigate a leading political rival, which the president says he did.  I think it is inappropriate at least in part to withhold aid to encourage that investigation.  But that is not treason, that is not bribery, that is not a high crime and misdemeanor." [Alexander Says Convicting Trump Would 'Pour Gasoline on Cultural Fires,' New York Times, 1-31-20.]

That same article had this comment from Senator Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska: "Lamar (Alexander) speaks for lots and lots of us."

I don't see deep enough or far enough to know whether our Constitution is hanging by a thread but it sure seems like that sacred document, the rule-of-law foundation on which rests everything that is truly great about our country, is taking a beating.

On Wednesday, I hope that Romney (and other senators) will be as concerned about the vitality of our Constitution as Alexander claims to be about the state of our culture.

Wouldn't it be something if Romney climbed aboard that white horse and voted to convict the president of abuse of power and obstructing the Congress?

Back to Alexander...

No matter how judicious, deliberative and statesmanlike Alexander seems, I am skeptical. In the above-cited Times piece, he made it known, perhaps unintentionally, how large the specter of our state's senior U.S. senator looms in his mind.

"Whatever you think of his (Trump's) behavior," Alexander said, "with the terrific economy, with conservative judges, with fewer regulations, you add in there an inappropriate call with the president of Ukraine, and you decide if you prefer him or Elizabeth Warren."

NEWS FLASH: Washington, D.C., 2:00 PM, Feb. 5.  Mitt Romney just announced that he will vote guilty later today on the first of two impeachment charges against the president.  He said, "I believe that attempting to corrupt an election to maintain power is about as egregious an assault on the Constitution as can be made.  And for that reason, it is a high crime and misdemeanor, and I have no choice under the oath that I took but to express that conclusion."

Criticized by Senator, Speaker Had Ready a Detail-Rich Rejoinder

Thursday, January 30, 2020

State Senator Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, was at the center of an event at the State House this past Monday, Jan. 27, promoting a bill that would ban the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the resolution of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases unless a complainant wanted an NDA.

Senate Bill 929, An Act Concerning Sexual Harassment Policies in the Commonwealth, is before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.  Senator DiZoglio and other proponents want the committee to report it out favorably by the Feb. 5 legislative deadline for doing so. 

Before she became a senator in 2019, DiZoglio served three terms in the House (2012-18), and before that she was a staffer in the House, employed in the office of Rep. Paul Adams, a Republican from Andover, who served only one term (2010-11).

DiZoglio was basically forced from her job after she and a state representative became the subject of rumors of allegedly inappropriate activity late one night in 2011 in the House chamber – rumors later proven to be false.  She got a raw deal.

As the State House News Service (SHNS) has explained, “Although an investigation by the Speaker’s office found (later) that nothing inappropriate" had occurred between DiZoglio and the representative, “DiZoglio’s boss decided that the rumors and gossip had become too much and he (Adams) asked her to find another job." 

DiZoglio reportedly sought the assistance of Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office in finding temporary employment outside the legislature.  When that didn't pan out, as reported by the SHNS, DiZoglio said she “eventually decided to settle and take the small severance pay” offered to her.

Jump from 2011 to March 15, 2018.

On the House floor that day, there occurred what the SHNS described as “an emotional debate over the use of non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements in cases of sexual harassment and other workplace disputes."  It took place  because the House was considering a package of new rules governing House policies and practices on workplace sexual harassment, including a new investigatory process for harassment claims.  At the end of the debate, the House adopted the package on a unanimous 151-0 vote.  

That day, Rep.  DiZoglio stated for the first time that she had signed her departure agreement containing an NDA in 2011 “under duress.”  She also said that “…on my way out the door, I was hit with another surprise: the Speaker’s office would not release my six weeks’ severance pay unless I signed a non-disclosure agreement including a non-disparagement agreement that legally bound me from discussing what happened and from criticizing any past, present or future elected members of the House.  I hesitated for days because I did not want to sign this document.  With my money running out quickly, however, I didn’t feel I had another option, so I signed under duress.”

Now jump to the event on S.929 this past Monday at the State House.  There, DiZoglio said:

“Your Speaker lied to you and put you in a very bad position, both by unequivocally denying that he has given out NDAs for anything related to sexual harassment, when I have one from his office and my circumstances were widely publicized, leading up to my wrongful termination, and also by exploiting victims’ need for confidentiality, to convince you, during a rushed and emotional debate, to allow these agreements to continue to be used by his office and elsewhere in our government.” [Source: SHNS]

Not for the first time, DeLeo took exception to an account of events by DiZoglio. 

On Monday, the Speaker's office released a lengthy statement defending and explaining his (and the House’s) administrative actions pertaining to DiZoglio’s 2011 termination.  

The statement emphasized that “…any pressure Senator DiZoglio felt to sign the termination and severance agreement did not – and could not have – come from any House member or employee.”

The complete text of the Speaker's statement follows:

“Senator DiZoglio’s former supervisor in the House – a Republican Member of the House – unilaterally terminated Senator DiZoglio without the knowledge of the Speaker, House Human Resources, or House Counsel.

“After Senator DiZoglio was terminated by her supervisor, the House was contacted by a private attorney who represented Senator DiZoglio. The House and Senator DiZoglio’s attorney then negotiated a mutually acceptable termination and severance agreement that provided Senator DiZoglio with six weeks of severance. It is the policy of the House to provide all terminated employees with two weeks of severance, so Senator DiZoglio received an additional four weeks of severance.

“At no time did any House member or employee involved in the negotiations communicate directly with Senator DiZoglio about said negotiations. All communications were with her private attorney. As such, any pressure Senator DiZoglio felt to sign the termination and severance agreement did not—and could not have—come from any House member or employee involved in the negotiations.

“It is also important to point out that at no time, either during her employment with the House or after her termination from the House, did Senator DiZoglio or her private attorney ever allege that she had been a victim of sexual harassment until March of 2018, when Sen. DiZoglio made her experience public.

“Over the past three years, the House took decisive action and immediately ordered an in-depth review of the House’s human resources function. As a result of that study, the House adopted a set of comprehensive human resources reforms including the creation of a new, independent Equal Employment Opportunity Officer (EEO) to ensure a professional working environment for all employees and visitors to the House.

“House rules also now include a process for executing any legal agreements by the House including a stringent process for executing ‘any agreement to settle any legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, or retaliation based on a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, by any current or former member, officer or employee.’ See House Rule 100. 

"House Rule 100 states that ‘[n]o member, officer or employee shall execute any agreement to settle a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, or retaliation based on a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment, by any current or former member, officer or employee unless:

1. the request to negotiate said agreement was initiated, in writing, by the person filing or eligible to file the legal claim or potential legal claim or a person legally authorized to represent that person;

2. the person filing the legal claim or eligible to file the legal claim is given 15 days to review and consider the agreement;

3. the duration of any non-disclosure or non-disparagement provision of the agreement to settle the legal claim or potential legal claim is for a finite period of time as agreed to by the parties;

4. the agreement to settle the legal claim or potential legal claim specifically provides that no provision of the agreement, including any non-disclosure or non-disparagement provision of the agreement, shall preclude any party from participating in an investigation by Counsel, the Director, the EEO Officer, a Committee on Professional Conduct or any law enforcement agency; and

5. the agreement is approved in writing by Counsel, the Director and the EEO Officer.’

“The restrictions on the use of agreements to settle a legal claim or potential legal claim of sexual harassment or retaliation are based on best practices informed by experts in the field including the National Association to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), Pathways to Change and the Boston Rape Crisis Center.

“As for agreements executed by the House prior to the rules reform in 2018, none were to settle complaints of sexual harassment, but rather a formalized process for providing terminated employees with a modest severance benefit.

“Currently, the House employs approximately 480 people (not including members). Since January 1, 2010 through today, more than 1,040 employees have concluded their employment with the House of Representatives. Of those, approximately 155 had their employment terminated by the House (or separated from employment in some way other than a voluntary resignation). Of those 155 employees, approximately 33 individuals (3 percent of all those concluding their employment with the House during this period) were offered a small severance payment in exchange for executing a written agreement containing a nondisclosure agreement. Of these 33 agreements, 15 agreements were executed with employees who were laid off as part of a reduction in force in December 2009. These agreements were included because, while the layoffs took effect in 2009, the severance for the affected employees continued until early January. The House has not executed an agreement with any current or former employee that contains a non-disclosure agreement since the adoption of House Rule 100.”