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Speaker DeLeo says House non-disclosure agreements included laid-off staff

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo did not say why the House sought the controversial agreements — which it has since waived — or why it did for some employees and not others.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo did not say why the House sought the controversial agreements — which it has since waived — or why it did for some employees and not others.(Elise Amendola/Associated Press/File 2016)

As many as 15 former House employees who were laid off in 2009 signed nondisclosure agreements after being shown the door, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office has disclosed.

But the Winthrop Democrat did not address why the House sought the controversial agreements — which it has since waived — or why it did for some employees and not others.

The disclosure came after DeLeo last week offered discrepant figures when asked about the House’s use of nondisclosure clauses. His office had previously said 33 outgoing House employees have been offered a “small” severance payment “in exchange for executing a written agreement” since 2010.

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But when pressed on the figures on Friday, he told reporters there’s been “about 18 of them, really, that could be looked at.”

The difference, his office said, involved the 15 agreements it signed with employees who were laid off in December 2009 but with whom discussions “continued” into January 2010. DeLeo’s staff included them in the initial count “to be intellectually honest,” spokesman Seth Gitell said.

DeLeo on Monday did not address questions about why laid-off employees would need a nondisclosure agreement, saying: “It was just in the natural course of business there. And that’s what we had done.”

“If folks do not wish to sign those agreements, they don’t have to sign those agreements,” he added.

The use of the agreements came under fire amid a House debate over its handling of harassment complaints, with Representative Diana DiZoglio decrying them last week as “silencing tactics.” The speaker’s office has said none of the NDAs were signed to settle sexual harassment complaints.

At the time, officials said the 28 staffers were being laid off amid an economic downturn. But the move wasn’t without controversy then: Several lawmakers fumed that they were not consulted or forewarned before the employees were escorted from the building by uniformed guards.

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Then-Representative William G. Greene, a Billerica Democrat, went a step further, calling his lost staff “retribution” after he supportedDeLeo’s rival in that year’s leadership fight.


Reach Matt Stout at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @mattpstout