Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) office announced Wednesday that she will resign from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and will step down as chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on criminal justice amid claims that she retailated against a former staffer who accused a Congressional Black Caucus aide of sexual assault.
Buzzfeed reports that Jackson Lee told her CBC colleagues on Saturday that she intended to forfeit her position as the head of the group’s non-profit wing, “after initially resisting pressure from the board to do so.” A spokesperson for the CBC told Buzzfeed that Jackson Lee will remain the chair of the organization’s board of directors, but will no longer be a public voice for the Congressional Black Caucus. She’s held her position in that organization since April of 2017.
Politico reported last week that the CBC was looking to force Jackson Lee out of leadership, and that the CBC Foundation’s board had told Jackson Lee to resign on a conference call. “Jackson Lee resisted those demands, and the call abruptly ended as other board members were trying to figure out how to continue the conversation without the Texas Democrat,” Politico said.
Jackson Lee has been under intense scrutiny from her colleagues since it emerged last week that she is named in a lawsuit by a former staffer, who says Jackson Lee and her senior staff retailated against her after she approached them for advice about handling an alleged sexual assault.
The staffer, who goes by the name “Jane Doe” in the complaint, claims she was drugged and then raped by a prominent aide to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation after a group event several years ago, when she was an intern for the group (the alleged perpetrator, she says, was her intern coordinator). Although Doe went to the police at the time and had a rape kit completed, she chose not to pursue the case any further.
Years later, while working as a staffer in Jackson Lee’s office, Doe found herself faced with the possibility of working alongside her alleged attacker; Jackson Lee’s office was floating the former CBC Foundation aide as a potential addition to the office. She approached Jackson Lee’s chief of staff to voice her concerns, and added that she planned on now pursuing legal action against her alleged attacker, if possible.
Jackson Lee’s chief of staff allegedly told Doe he would take her concerns to the congresswoman, but no meeting on the subject was ever set. Instead, two weeks later, Jane Doe was fired.
Doe alleges that Jackson Lee spoke to members of the Congressional Black Cacucus Foundation about the issue, and decided, in concert with her colleagues, to dismiss Doe from her office rather than handle her allegations of sexual assault. Jackson Lee’s office denies Doe’s claims and says Doe, an at-will employee, was simply let go for work-related reasons.
Jackson Lee’s office did not respond to comment about her departure from either the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation or the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on criminal justice, but did issue a broad denial of Jane Doe’s allegations.
“While we still deny the allegations, we are especially concerned about Ms. Doe and only want the best for her and the many, many young people that the Congressional office has supported, encouraged and provided opportunities for over 20 years,” the congresswoman’s office said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle, her home paper.
“The congresswoman is confident that, once all of the facts come to light, her office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest,” the statement added.