The Lead

Gov. Josh Shapiro makes first public comments about former aide accused of sexual harassment

By: - October 5, 2023 7:02 pm

Gov. Josh Shapiro declined to provide specifics when questioned by reporters about a harassment claim against former aide Mike Vereb during a press conference on Oct. 5, 2023.   (Photo via Commonwealth Media Services)

During a press conference on Thursday announcing a conservation project in the Lehigh Valley, Gov. Josh Shapiro spoke for the first time publicly about the resignation of a top aide who resigned last week after being accused of sexual harassment.

SpotlightPA reported that Mike Vereb, the Shapiro administration’s former secretary of legislative affairs, was accused of sexually harassing another employee of the administration months before he resigned. Shapiro had not spoken publicly about Vereb’s departure, despite a growing chorus of voices questioning the matter. Senate Pro Tempore Kim Ward called the situation “unacceptable,” noting that the report filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in May indicated Vereb remained in his role months after the harassment was reported.

“Despite this being a personnel matter, the Governor’s office has offered official comments and conflicting information on the issue,” Ward said in a press release on Monday. “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.”

On Thursday, Shapiro answered questions from reporters about Vereb, but did not mention him by name. He declined to comment on specifics, saying it was still a personnel matter.

“Our administration is led by two women… my chief of staff and our general counsel,” he said, referring to Dana Fritz and Jennifer Selber. “And we work every day to make sure that we have a healthy, safe, professional working environment for all of our employees.”

State. Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) was also at the press conference. “As a female state senator, we were able to sit and meet with Governor Shapiro on his team yesterday,” Boscola said. “We came out of that very confident that he’s handling this administration and he’s right. He has two powerful women that know what they’re doing when they come to personnel issues. So I’m very confident that the administration is handling this as best as they can.”

Asked about Ward’s comment Shapiro said to “consider the source,” and added “we have an independent, robust process. That is one where any employee should feel comfortable coming forward, and that their voice will be heard.”

He added that during his time as attorney general, he learned that when allegations come forward “you owe it to a witness, you owe it to a complainant, you owe it to a victim to make sure that you have a confidential process. You have a rigorous process that’s grounded in integrity to ensure that their voice can be heard and to ensure that appropriate outcomes are brought about and we are committed to doing that and do it in our administration.”

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly