Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) will resign from two high-profile positions after being sued for retaliation against a staffer, according to a Wednesday report.
The New York Times states Jackson will resign as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and temporarily step down from her House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship.
The Times, citing officials familiar with the matter, reports some of the foundation’s board members told Jackson Lee last week that she would face a “vote of removal” if she did not resign.
The staffer, identified as Jane Doe, alleges she was raped by a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation intern coordinator, Damien Jones, in 2015. The unnamed plaintiff said she has evidence, including text message, telephone conservations, and DNA to prove the encounter occurred. According to the accuser, she was fired from her position in March 2018 after notifying the Texas Democrat’s chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, that she intended to take legal action against the foundation. The lawsuit states she was let go several weeks later, citing “budgetary issues.”
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a nonprofit aligned with the Congressional Black Caucus, offers scholarships and other programs aimed at cultivating political leadership among African-Americans.
Jones later worked for the failed Senate campaign of former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX). A spokesperson for O’Rourke’s campaign told BuzzFeed that they were previously unaware of the allegations against Jones and “no longer [have] a relationship” with him.
The plaintiff claims she lost 50 pounds, suffered from mental health issues, and lost wages following the alleged incident. Doe is seeking $75,000 in damages from Jackson Lee’s office and the foundation.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation vowed in a statement Wednesday to cooperate with an investigation regarding the explosive allegations.
“We are deeply concerned about the welfare of all our interns and fellows, including ‘Jane Doe,’ the former C.B.C.F. intern who recently filed suit,” said spokesperson C.J. Epps. “It is C.B.C.F.’s position that the foundation did not have the purview to terminate Ms. Doe from a staff position in a congressional office, and therefore, did not take such action nor recommend or influence said decision.”
In a separate statement, a press representative for Jackson Lee said the embattled lawmaker is confident that she will be “exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct.”
In light of the allegations, Ebony Tucker, a spokesperson for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said that while Jackson Lee has been a “strong ally” of women’s rights, the organization can longer support her “continued lead sponsorship” of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. “We begin and end all of our work with supporting survivors and support Jane Doe and many others who have been unsupported in their attempts to speak out,” said Tucker.