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Shapiro’s office pays $295K to settle claim

HARRISBURG - The office of Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro settled a former employee’s claim she was sexually harassed by a senior aide earlier this year by agreeing to pay her and her lawyers $295,000, according to documents released by the administration late Friday under the state’s open records law.

The settlement, finalized in early September, stems from allegations made by the woman against Mike Vereb, who served as Shapiro’s secretary of legislative affairs until his resignation last month. The woman, who started in her role around when Shapiro took office in January, wrote in a complaint earlier this year that Vereb made lewd and misogynistic remarks and that she was retaliated against when she spoke up.

Her attorney, Chuck Pascal, confirmed the settlement, which provided $196,365 to the woman and more than $49,000 to both law firms she had hired to represent her through this process. He declined further comment.

A spokesperson for the governor declined further comment.

As part of the settlement, the governor’s office agreed to provide sexual harassment training to all members of Policy and Legislative Affairs staff.

The woman can also seek employment elsewhere in state government, and as a contractor, or with a future administration. She cannot be the lead contact for any contract work with the current administration.

Shapiro has largely avoided comment on the allegations and Vereb’s resignation, and drew blowback from legislators when he told reporters to “consider the source” when asked about concerns raised by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, regarding Vereb remaining employed for months despite the allegations.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Shapiro also met with all of the state’s women Democratic senators as the allegations unfolded.

Vereb was accused in the woman’s complaint to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission of subjecting her to unwanted sexual advances during her brief stint working in the governor’s administration.

A former five-term Republican state lawmaker and former police officer in the Philadelphia suburbs, Vereb worked closely with Shapiro when he was attorney general. After the Democrat won the governor’s post, Verb assumed the role of shepherding Shapiro’s agenda through the politically divided Legislature.

Brooke Schultz is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

FILE - Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro speaks at the United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania Oppenheim Healthy Aging Campus in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, May 25, 2023. After a top aide to Gov. Shapiro was accused of sexual harassment earlier this year, the governor's office settled with the complainant for $295K last month, according to documents released by the administration Friday, Oct. 20, through an open records request. (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP, File)