WASHINGTON - Former congressman Eric Massa said Saturday that someone forged a $40,000 salary increase for his chief of staff, who has accused the ex-lawmaker of sexual harassment.
The New York Democrat also denied authorizing a check from a campaign account in the same amount to the same official, Joe Racalto, according to a statement released by Massa's attorney. Racalto's attorney denied the allegations and said both transactions were done at Massa's direction.
The exchange came as Racalto filed a sexual harassment complaint against the former congressman, who resigned from the House March 5.
"The amount of $40,000 was determined solely by Mr. Racalto," said the statement to The Associated Press. "Mr. Racalto never communicated the $40,000 amount of the payment to Mr. Massa."
Massa's statement also alleged that "someone forged then-Congressman Massa's signature on forms raising Mr. Racalto's own salary as a member of the congressman's personal staff from $120,000 per year to the maximum permissible level of $160,000." The statement did not say when that happened.
"These matters continue to be under review and the appropriate authorities will be provided with all the relevant information," Massa's campaign said.
Massa's attorney Milo Silberstein declined to answer any questions Saturday after issuing the campaign's statement.
Racalto is among those who have accused Massa of sexual harassment.
Racalto's lawyer, Camilla McKinney, denied Massa's allegations and questioned the timing of the charges in light of Racalto's sexual harassment complaint.
"The timing of the allegations is highly questionable and suspicious," McKinney said in a telephone interview Saturday with AP. "The congressman is trying to discredit someone who is making a sexual harassment complaint against him."
McKinney said the $40,000 pay raise was authorized by Massa.
"The pay raise was authorized by congressman Massa at the congressman's direction," she said.
McKinney added that the $40,000 check from the campaign to Racalto was also authorized by Massa.
"It would be ridiculous for anyone in the campaign to cut a check for $40,000 without the approval of congressman Massa," she said.
McKinney on Friday said the campaign check was a "deferred payment" for Racalto's work this year and last on the congressman's 2010 re-election campaign and for work on Massa's 2008 transition.
The payment to Racalto came as allegations about his boss sexually harassing young male staffers in his office were becoming public.
Racalto is still working in Massa's former congressional office, but he plans to leave May 1 to work for a nonprofit organization in New York, McKinney said.