Shapiro Heads to New Hampshire Amid Cloud of Alleged Sexual Harassment in Pennsylvania Executive Office

A close adviser to the governor suddenly quit this week, months after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Shapiro Heads to New Hampshire Amid Cloud of Alleged Sexual Harassment in Pennsylvania Executive Office
Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order to establish standards and a governance framework for generative artificial intelligence used by commonwealth agencies and establish a Generative AI Governing Board to guide Commonwealth policy, use, and deployment, in Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, 2023. (Commonwealth Media Service)
Beth Brelje

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has a high-profile speaking engagement Saturday as keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Midterm Convention. The Democrat governor’s name is frequently mentioned as a future presidential candidate.

As host to the country’s first primary held after the Iowa Caucuses, New Hampshire is a key early test of the viability of presidential candidates. It does not hurt for future potential presidential hopefuls to be elevated by New Hampshire Democrats, but Mr. Shapiro will be leaving Harrisburg amid reports of sexual harassment occurring in his office.

Mr. Shapiro’s close senior adviser Mike Vereb quit abruptly this week, months after he was accused of sexual harassment by a female co-worker who said his behavior forced her to quit her job in the governor's office. Mr. Vereb was Mr. Shapiro's secretary of legislative affairs and the key liaison promoting the governor’s agenda between the governor’s office and the Legislature, especially during budget negotiations.

Mr. Vereb, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, didn't immediately respond to a message left on his cellphone Thursday by The Associated Press.

A former officer of the West Conshohocken Police Department, Mr. Vereb has worked closely with Mr. Shapiro for years, including at the attorney general’s office when Mr. Shapiro was the chief law enforcement officer in the state.

Uncomfortable Workplace

In the woman's complaint to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Mr. Vereb was accused of subjecting her to lewd, misogynistic, and unwanted sexual advances during her time working for the administration, according to The Associated Press.

In a March 31 statement to the state Office of Administration describing her allegations, the woman wrote that she was afraid of Mr. Vereb.

“I am scared of what he will do, the rumors he will spread, I am scared for my professional career,” she said. “I am putting this all on the line because I am fearful that he will do this to someone else.”

State Rep. Abby Major, a Republican from Armstrong County, said the woman provided her with the interview and complaint several months ago, at a time when they were talking daily about the matter.

“She lost her livelihood," Ms. Major said, noting rumors were being spread about it. “So I’m sure it was very difficult to try to continue working in this atmosphere and in the sphere of politics where some of the people at the very top are working against you.”

Shapiro’s Response

The Epoch Times asked Mr. Shapiro’s office why the governor kept Mr. Vereb employed in the executive office for months after learning of the alleged harassment.

Manuel Bonder, spokesman for Mr. Shapiro, said the office does not comment on specific personnel matters but it takes allegations of discrimination and harassment seriously. He provided an emailed statement.

"Robust procedures are in place for thoroughly investigating reports of discrimination and harassment—and these procedures are implemented whenever complaints of discrimination or harassment are made and provide detailed guidance to help ensure that allegations are promptly and fully investigated and that employees feel comfortable to report misconduct. These procedures expressly recognize that employees may subsequently report allegations to other entities, including the [Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission] or [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], and that reports made to those entities are addressed in accordance with the law.”

A statement announcing Mr. Vereb’s departure Wednesday included complimentary statements about him and no mention of the harassment allegations.

“Mike has spent decades serving our Commonwealth, including six years securing funding for law enforcement and enhancing school safety in the Office of Attorney General and the critical first year of our Administration getting a historic, bipartisan budget across the finish line," chief of staff Dana Fritz said in the statement. “Mike has been a key member of our team and thanks to his dedicated service, the Governor’s Office is prepared for the work ahead. We wish Mike all the best and we’re grateful for his service.”

The statement described Mr. Vereb as one who brings people together and gets things done.

New Hampshire Stage

Mr. Shapiro often travels out of Pennsylvania for political engagements and the trip to New Hampshire is an important one. Every national Democratic leader in the last 50 years has spoken at a New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention, a statement from the state party said, and now it is Mr. Shapiro’s turn.

“In Pennsylvania, we defeated extremism and showed the rest of the country what it looks like to come together behind a vision for a better future—one where we create real opportunity while defending our rights and advancing real freedom for all,” Mr. Shapiro said in a statement promoting his appearance.

“New Hampshire voters face a similar choice next November—they will decide a critical open race for Governor and play a central role in reelecting President Biden and retaking the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to Granite Staters at this critical time for both New Hampshire and our nation’s future and rally with them behind Democratic candidates who, like me, believe government can be a productive force for good.”

Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]