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N4T Investigators: Grijalva on his drinking: I beat 'the demons' - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Grijalva on his drinking: I beat 'the demons'

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Tucson- Rep. Raul Grijalva is well aware that some people have said for years that he was a drinking problem. "It's embarrassing and sometimes difficult," he told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. "But it's the fishbowl life that I lead as a politician and as a public person."

We asked Grijalva (D-Tucson) "What's your response to people who say you drink too much?" He answered, "That it's not true. I'm a very fortunate human being. I'm surrounded by a very strong family. Every election cycle, the question you just asked me comes up again. It's kind of like the, 'Did you stop beating your wife' question. There's no answer to it without getting yourself in trouble. No, they're false, and I couldn't do my job. While this is embarrassing, OK, while it is difficult to talk about, it's not true." 

Grijalva says he has heard the rumors since he was convicted of DUI in 1985 while a member of the Tucson Unified School District Board. He says the allegations come from political enemies who don't like his liberal views. The seven-term congressman told us he did have a problem with alcohol years ago, but got professional help.

"I dealt with it and I feel very comfortable that I got past that," Grijalva said. "And it was a period of my life in which other things were affecting me and affecting me personally and once you wrestle the demons, and you beat 'em, you beat 'em. And I feel very comfortable that that demon's beat."

Grijalva dealt with a different type of demon recently: a threatened lawsuit, first reported in November by the Washington Times. A former employee of the House Natural Resources Committee, of which Grijalva is the ranking member, claimed he was "frequently drunk" and created "a hostile workplace environment." 

We asked him, "What's your response to the former staffer saying you created a quote, hostile work place?" He replied, "She was there 28 days. And my response to her is that it's false, it's a lie."

Grijalva paid the woman $48,000 in taxpayers dollars in severance pay as part of a settlement. We asked him, "If you did nothing wrong, why did you pay this woman?" He said, "I think that that was the best use of money. Going to court would have been three or four times that cost, number one. And number two, and it's not a defense, but I've never done it before, this is the first time we've made a settlement with an employee." 

Grijalva signed a non-disclosure agreement so he can't discuss specifics about the settlement. He said they had "philosophical policy differences" related to work. He also says he didn't want to settle. "I wouldn't have done this on my own, I wouldn't have done it without legal advice," he told us. "I've been real tempered in not going into a personality issue with the complainant, simply because it's not worth it."

The former employee declined an interview with the News 4 Tucson Investigators through her attorney, Lynn Bernabie, who said on the phone that, "Grijalva was the one who insisted on the non-disclosure agreement."

Grijalva says the woman didn't complain about him until after he fired her. "I felt that the charges were so outrageous that we would have prevailed in court if we went to court," he said. 

Grijalva says he wants the confidentiality clause lifted so everyone can find out what happened. He said, "If you want transparency, if you want it out, we also asked the Ethics committee of the House, investigate this settlement and tell the public and make it transparent. If I had to do it over again, I would probably do the same route, except probably not deal with the confidentiality thing in case anything came up."

Lynne Bernabie, the Washington, D.C. attorney for the former employee, said the woman is "Not interested in public debate or litigating this in the press. She's the mother of two children and wants to go on with her life."

Rep. Grijalva turns 70 on Feb. 19 and plans to run for an eighth term in office next year.

If you have any story you would like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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