A sexual harassment scandal gripping the Shapiro administration isn’t sitting well with some women in the Pennsylvania state Senate, starting with DelVal’s own Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery)
“Sexual harassment in the workplace can never be tolerated or accepted, especially in the highest office of our commonwealth,” she said Tuesday. “These allegations raise serious questions about the kind of workplace culture that could have turned a blind eye and enabled this kind of behavior. All victims, no matter who they are, deserve to be heard.”
At issue is the behavior of longtime Shapiro ally and close confidant Mike Vereb, forced to resign from his post as Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Secretary of Legislative Affairs. It comes after allegations by a female former deputy secretary that Mike Vereb subjected her to unwanted sexual conversations in February and March.
READ MORE — Shapiro cabinet member Mike Vereb resigns under cloud following sexual harassment allegations
Pennycuick called the allegations against Mike Vereb “deeply troubling.”
“The people of Pennsylvania trust us to work on their behalf as public officials with integrity, respect, and with the best interest of the people we serve at the top of our mind. When this trust is betrayed, the people deserve answers.”
Pennycuick was far from alone.
“The details of the sexual harassment complaint filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against Gov. Shapiro’s office are appalling,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland). “Despite this being a personnel matter, the governor’s office has offered official comments and conflicting information on the issue. This not only raises concerns related to their workplace practices but also whether this matter has influenced our current unfinished budget situation and how taxpayer funds are supporting this issue.”
Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) said, “The lack of information or even acknowledgment by Gov. Shapiro regarding the alleged sexual harassment by one of his former top officials is humiliating to women in the workplace. It sends a message to working women that they are not truly valued.
“It also raises more questions than answers for Gov. Shapiro’s administration, such as how long did Gov. Shapiro know, and have taxpayers been affected? Secrecy continues to be a trend with this administration, which required staff to sign a lengthy, three-page nondisclosure agreement during the executive branch’s transition period earlier this year. This is why we need more transparency.”
One cannot help but be concerned that the victims’ claim may not have been taken seriously or addressed in a timely manner.
Ward, a veteran legislator, noted the alleged abuse went on far longer than it had to.
“The alleged offender remained in his influential role until he tendered his resignation, leaving the victim in an unsafe space to fend for herself with limited options. This is unacceptable,” Ward said.
Pennycuick also noted Vereb’s lingering impact on state government long after the complaints began.
“While we cannot control the behavior of all people, we can take quick and appropriate action. In this instance, it seems that the alleged offender was permitted to stay in his role while leaving the victim vulnerable. At the same time, he continued to serve Gov. Shapiro as the lead negotiator on the budget. With this in mind, one cannot help but be concerned that the victims’ claim may not have been taken seriously or addressed in a timely manner,” Pennycuick said.
Shapiro’s office is sticking to its story.
“Although the Commonwealth does not comment on specific personnel matters, it takes allegations of discrimination and harassment seriously. Robust procedures are in place for thoroughly investigating reports of discrimination and harassment, and these procedures are implemented whenever complaints of discrimination or harassment are made and provide detailed guidance to help ensure that allegations are promptly and fully investigated and that employees feel comfortable reporting misconduct,” said Manuel Bonder, a spokesman for Shapiro.
“These procedures expressly recognize that employees may subsequently report allegations to other entities, including the PHRC or EEOC, and that reports made to those entities are addressed in accordance with the law.”
Linda Stein is News Editor at Delaware Valley Journal.
This article was republished with permission from the Delaware Valley Journal.