U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has settled a lawsuit filed nearly two years ago by a former advisor who alleged the lawmaker took a lax approach to safety during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and then fired the staffer in retaliation after he complained, the Colorado Springs Republican's office confirmed on Tuesday.
The terms of the settlement between the lawmaker and Brandon Pope, who worked for nearly two years as the congressman's military advisor until December 2020, weren't disclosed in court filings dismissing the lawsuit last week in federal district court in Washington, D.C.
Allegations raised in the lawsuit remain under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics, which announced a year ago that it would review charges Lamborn misused official resources for personal purposes, including requiring congressional staffers to perform tasks for the Lamborn family and his campaign, and that he "solicited or accepted improper gifts from subordinates." The lawsuit also alleged Lamborn let his son live rent-free in the basement of the U.S. Capitol.
Lamborn was reelected in November to a ninth term representing the El Paso County-based 5th Congressional District.
Cassandra Sebastian, Lamborn's communications director, told Colorado Politics the settlement, which was proposed by a magistrate judge during mediation, doesn't imply "any admission of guilt or wrongdoing associated with this resolution" and said that her boss "absolutely maintains that at all times, he and his office used best efforts to comply with all legal and ethical requirements."
“While plaintiff and defendant disagree strongly about the allegations and defenses made during the Lawsuit, the parties engaged in mediation with a Magistrate Judge and jointly agreed to accept the solution proposed by the mediator, to avoid the expense and burden of future litigation for all involved, including the public (taxpayers)," Sebastian said in a written statement.
She added that the "strict confidentiality provisions" of a federal law governing congressional operations "preclude the parties from revealing any other information regarding this matter; accordingly, no further comment is permissible.”
Pope didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
His lawsuit accused Lamborn and his congressional office of taking a "reckless and dangerous" approach to COVID at the height of the 2020 pandemic, including allegations the lawmaker was "willing to sacrifice the health and safety of his employees" by disregarding safety concerns, even as the coronavirus infected the lawmaker and multiple staff members.
Pope also claimed he was fired, two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID, for raising concerns about workplace safety conditions. That allegation was supported by Joshua Hosler, a former district director for Lamborn, who said in court filings that he was Pope's direct supervisor and considered him "generally an excellent employee."
The lawsuit also said Lamborn required his congressional staff to run personal errands and perform tasks unrelated to their jobs for Lamborn and his wife, such as buying the couple Christmas and birthday presents and helping move furniture to the Lamborn's vacation home.
When the lawsuit was filed, Sebastian denied the allegations, calling them "unsubstantiated," and said Pope wasn't fired for the reasons he claimed.
A report released a year ago by the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the bipartisan House ethics committee investigate some of Pope's allegations, following a determination that there was “substantial reason to believe” Lamborn and his wife had enlisted staff members to perform unofficial duties.
Responding to the ethics investigation, Lamborn's attorney called Pope and Hosler "disgruntled former staffers" and charged that they "weaponized the ethics process for political and personal purposes." The attorney added that Lamborn would cooperate with the investigation and "expects to be fully exonerated."
In a Jan. 3 report on its activities during the last Congress, the ethics committee said it hadn't completed its investigation into the complaint.