A report released by an Inspector General’s Office (OIG) has concluded that the Federal Housing and Finance Agency’s Director Luther Melvin “Mel” Watt is guilty of the sexual misconduct complaint filed against him.
“We found that the FHF A Director violated Section 702 when he attempted to coerce or induce the PMO Manager to engage in a personal relationship with him by suggesting or implying he would use his official authority to assist her in attaining an executive position with FHFA,” the report says.
“We find that there are no circumstances under which it would be appropriate for the head of FHFA to induce a subordinate female employee to meet with him alone, in his apartment, for a conversation in which he professes his attraction for that employee and holds out opportunities for the employee to serve in specific executive positions over which he exercises total control.”
Mel Watt, a life-long Democrat, was appointed as Director of the Federal and Finance Agency (FHFA) in 2015 by former President Barack Obama. Prior to his appointment, Watt was a Congressman for North Carolina’s 12th district for 11 terms and spent two years as a senator in the state’s legislature.
Watt has denied the allegations and has characterized them as ‘untrue’, ‘a wake-up call’, and ‘political’.
According to transcripts reported on by the Washington Post, Watt told investigators that “In my view, it’s time for me to ride off into the sunset because the standards have become so confused that it’s difficult to operate in them. ”
According to the FHFA OIG’s report, an anonymous complaint in the summer of 2017 alleging Director Watt “inappropriately created an executive position in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer (OCOO) for an FHFA employee.”
Less than a year later, a formal complaint was filed by a PMO Manager who had been working under Watt.
“On May 9, 2018, the PMO Manager filed an informal complaint with FHFA’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) alleging violations of her rights under the Equal Pay Act and discrimination (including sexual harassment) on the basis of her sex and race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended).”
The name of the PMO Manager is redacted in the report, however, her name is Simone Grimes and she claims to have recorded two years worth conversations she had with Watt. Grimes gave permission for her name to be released.
“Standing up for myself against the director of a federal agency of the U.S. government has not been an easy thing to do. I hope all of this will make future complaints against high-powered individuals easier for the next employee (male or female) that finds themselves in a similar position,” Grimes said in a statement.
The OIG’s report details the receipt of several audio recordings. One item received by the OIG was an email labeled “Watt Employment Charade Process”. Attached were three ‘transcripts’ of three conversations between the PMO Manager Grimes and FHFA Director Watt which the Grimes had labeled: “Four Types of Attraction,” “Tattoo.” and “Why Have You Rejected My Advances”
After interviewing over 20 witnesses and going through multiple recordings, transcripts, and other documents, the OIG determined claims were true and Watt had abused his position and sexually harassed Grimes.
Excerpt from the report:
“The FHFA Director advised the PMO Manager, and reported to us, that only he could approve the creation of a new executive position and the selection of a candidate to fill it.
By his own design, he met alone in his apartment with the PMO Manager, a female subordinate who the Director knew desired a promotion to an executive position in the Agency, and raised two possible opportunities for such a promotion.
In a recording of a portion of their conversation in the FHFA Director’s apartment, the FHFA Director can be heard to intermingle comments about his attraction to the PMO Manager and his admiration of her physical appearance with a discussion possible paths by which she could advance into FHFA’s executive ranks.”
The FHFA OIG report also stated that the “Director lacked candor when he omitted information that was material to our inquiry.”
The report says Watt omitted any mention of “his personal friendship with, and mentorship of the PMO Manager.” and that he had a “plan,” under which the PMO Manager could “advance into FHFA’s executive ranks.”
Watt’s misconduct has not gained the same type of national attention as other government officials have in the era of “Me too” like Al Franken or John Conyers.
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A.P. Dillon is the North Carolina Bureau Chief for The Tennesee Star and a reporter at Battleground State News. Follow A.P. Dillon on Twitter. Email Tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “North Carolina Capitol” by Orchidus. CC BY-SA 4.0.