This article first appeared at Broad + Liberty.
Former State Representative Mike Vereb’s (R) resignation from his post as Secretary of Legislative Affairs for Governor Josh Shapiro (D) on Wednesday afternoon comes in the wake of allegations by a female former deputy secretary that Vereb subjected her to unwanted sexual conversations in February and March.
The former deputy secretary worked for Vereb for a brief four or five weeks starting in February before finally exiting the job on or about March 7, according to a draft legal complaint obtained by Broad + Liberty. It’s not clear if she tendered a resignation or was fired or pushed out.
Broad + Liberty began trying to negotiate an interview with Vereb through the Shapiro administration on Tuesday in an effort to give both Vereb and the administration the opportunity to address the allegations directly. After the Wednesday resignation, Broad + Liberty requested comment on a set of questions it had posed earlier in the day, such as whether a settlement had been reached with the accuser, and if there was a non-disclosure agreement. The Shapiro administration still has not returned that request, with the deadline to do so well in the past.
Broad + Liberty has sent a standing invitation to the Shapiro administration to discuss elements of this episode more thoroughly.
(The request for comment can be viewed here. Portions of the email that have been redacted relate to anecdotes from the complaint which Broad + Liberty has not been able to corroborate.)
Efforts to reach Vereb were either not returned or were unsuccessful. Efforts to reach the accuser were also not returned, including requests to speak with the accuser’s attorney about the matter.
Given the 200-plus days between the deputy’s departure in March and Vereb’s resignation Wednesday, the affair raises questions for the first term governor about the degree to which Gov. Shapiro believed Vereb over the accuser, and his willingness to risk keeping a potential liability on staff.
While the complaint is obviously focused on Vereb, it also takes direct aim at the governor, alleging “Respondent [Shapiro] knew or should have known that Vereb was prone to acts of workplace harassment, sexual misconduct, and related behaviors that could create a hostile, abusive threatening and/or intimidating workplace, but failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent such conduct in the workplace.”
Broad + Liberty is currently not naming the accuser because she could be be the victim of workplace sexual harassment. It is not yet known if the claim has resulted in any kind of settlement, or if non-disclosure agreements were signed by either party regarding the alleged ordeal.
That legal complaint, accompanied by a lengthy “interview statement” from the accuser totals 26 pages of which Broad + Liberty has obtained an unredacted version. The document lacks the kind of court stamp that would indicate filing, meaning it could be a draft version. The complaint cannot be shared because even redacting names would still identify the accuser.
It alleges three “counts” against the administration: hostile work environment, harassment and disparate treatment on the basis of the accuser’s sex, and retaliation.
The document contains four different dates showing the timeline of how the case has proceeded over the course of months. The accuser’s “interview statement” which totals eleven typed pages is dated March 22. After the accuser had the opportunity to review the typed version of the statement, she signed it on March 31. The enumerated legal complaint was signed by the accuser on May 26. Finally, one page of the document shows an attorney entering his appearance on behalf of the accuser on June 21.
At the end of the legal complaint, the accuser’s signature acknowledged “that false statements herein are made subject to the penalties…relating to unsworn falsification to authorities,” — acknowledging that false statements on the complaint could be a crime.
Making the timeline all the more significant is the deputy’s departure on March 7 was just days after the capitol had been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations against then-Rep. Mike Zabel, a Democrat from Delaware County. Zabel would later resign, forcing a special election that would put the Democrat’s House majority at stake.
Democrats were under heavy fire when it was further revealed that many top-ranking members of the caucus had known about concerns with Zabel dating back to 2019.
Vereb served in the state House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, representing Montgomery County’s 150th district. Before being elected to the legislature, he was a West Conshohocken police officer and a member of West Norriton Township’s Board of Commissioners. He followed Shapiro to the Attorney General’s office after leaving the House, working as Director of Government Affairs there. When Shapiro became governor, he brought Vereb with him again to serve as Secretary of Legislative Affairs.
Shapiro named Thomas (TJ) Yablonski Jr. to replace Vereb, “a Pennsylvania native who currently serves as a Senior Advisor in the Governor’s Office,” according to a press release.