NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Two Tennessee lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would eliminate a secret hush fund that has silenced victims of sexual harassment using taxpayer dollars.
"It’s just disgusting that this is a fund that would have served as a personal bailout, if you will, for misbehavior, for accusations, and complaints that were made," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has co-sponsored the bill along with Rep. Jim Cooper.
Blackburn said victims of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill have filed 268 claims since 1995 when the fund was created, and payments to keep quiet add up to about $17 million.
The bill Blackburn and Cooper have sponsored would prohibit the use of public funds to settle sexual harassment claims and require perpetrators to pay back the money used with interest.
“No more cover-ups,” Rep. Cooper said in a press release. “We need transparency, safety and appropriate behavior. Sexual misconduct has no place here, or anywhere.”
The legislation would also require previous claims to be made public and allow victims to come forward publicly, regardless of previous non-disclosure agreements.