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Holland woman accuses congressman of unwanted sexual advances

By Sydney Smith/The Holland Sentinel • Dec 1, 2017 at 11:00 AM

HOLLAND — A Holland woman and former staff member of U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan has alleged the congressman from Detroit made several unwanted advances toward her.

A staffer for Conyers from 1997 to 2005, Deanna Maher, now 77, came forward about the alleged advances on Nov. 28. She spoke with The Sentinel on Nov. 30.

“I am standing up for all these young people who come to work at the Capitol and it’s glamorous and exciting,” she said. “The predators take advantage of them. I want to speak up for all of the people that are victimized by members of Congress.”

Maher declined to rehash details of the incidents with The Sentinel, as multiple news outlets around the state and country have been calling and showing up at her home to hear her story.

Maher told the Detroit News that Conyers allegedly touched “all over” her abdomen during a car ride to the airport in 1998. According to CNN, a year later Conyers stuck his hands up her dress and said, “You’ve got great looking legs,” on stage during a town hall.

She also told the Detroit News that Conyers stripped in front of her inside a Washington hotel room in 1997, when the two attended a Congressional Black Caucus event. Maher was in her 50s at the time.

According to the Detroit News, Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, questioned why Maher would continue to work for Conyers for years after the alleged incidents, and said her allegations are uncorroborated and that Conyers denies wrongdoing.

Maher told The Sentinel she did not feel like she could report the incidents with Conyers immediately because of his political power at the time, and she wanted to keep her job. She said she talked to some family and friends about the incidents.

“At that time, I needed the job and I thought I would be clever enough to avoid it, to protect myself,” she told The Sentinel. “He never succeeded with me.”

Maher is one of several former aides to make allegations against Conyers. Most recently, Marion Brown detailed accusations of inappropriate behavior by Conyers on NBC’s “Today” show. She received a $27,000 settlement in 2015 after being fired, she said, for refusing Conyer’s advances.

Maher told The Sentinel she never filed a suit against Conyers. She only reported an incident in 2001 when she says another male staffer allegedly forcibly kissed her when Conyers was in his nearby office. After that incident, she said she was “blindsided” and reported it to the House Ethics Committee, U.S. Marshal Service and the FBI, and that nothing was done.

Throughout her interview with The Sentinel, Maher made other accusations against Conyers and members of his staff, alleging instances of corruption, saying the problem goes beyond that of sexual harassment.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations against Conyers, who has denied the accusations and refused to resign. He announced Nov. 26 that he would step aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Conyers should resign because of the mounting accusations.

Conyers, 88, is the longest-serving member in the House. He was hospitalized Thursday, according to the Detroit News, for a stress-induced illness.

Some former Detroit-area reporters have stated that Maher spoke about the alleged incidents in the past, but did not want to go on record.

Maher currently lives in Holland, where she raised her family and worked as a teacher in Zeeland until 1986, when she moved for “personal reasons” to Detroit. She then became a paralegal and ended up working for Conyers.

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