Politics

Embattled Rep. Katie Hill's husband claims he got jobs at non-profit where she worked because of her 'influence'

Key Points
  • Rep. Katie Hill's husband got multiple jobs at a non-profit group where she held senior positions due to her 'influence,' he says in their divorce case.
  • Kenny Heslep, Hill's husband, says he was moved out of one of his non-profit jobs because Hill's employer "was concerned about nepotism and how it looked that she was my boss."
  • On Sunday, Hill announced her resignation from the House. In doing so, she singled out her husband and "hateful political operatives" for "driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation."
U.S Representative Katie Hill (D-CA) speaking at a press event with House Democrats on the first 200 days of the 116th Congress, on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC.
Michael Brochstein | LightRocket | Getty Images

Rep. Katie Hill — a freshman California Democrat who currently faces a House ethics probe for possibly engaging in romantic relationships with subordinates — previously helped her husband get multiple jobs at a non-profit group where Hill held positions senior to him, according to court documents reviewed by CNBC.

Kenny Heslep, Hill's now-estranged husband, was moved out of one of those jobs because Hill's employer "was concerned about nepotism and how it looked that she was my boss," Heslep said in the divorce complaint he filed in July.

Hill has described Heslep as an "abusive husband."

On Sunday, Hill announced her resignation from the House. In doing so, she singled out her husband and "hateful political operatives" for "driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation."

The House Ethics Committee had launched a probe of Hill, 32, on Wednesday after allegations that she had a relationship with legislative director Graham Kelly, as well as with a female staffer on her 2018 campaign for Congress.

"The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Katie Hill may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff, in violation of" House rules, the committee said in a prepared statement.

Members of Congress are barred by ethics rules from having sexual affairs with their office employees.

The Ethics Committee has previously held that "it has jurisdiction over 'misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House."

Hill's spokesman, Bill Burton, who was previously deputy White House press secretary for President Barack Obama, did not reply to a request for comment.

Divorce lawyers for Hill and Heslep did not return requests for comment from CNBC.

Hill denies that she had an affair with Kelly, who still works in her House office.

But she said she had a relationship with a female campaign staffer on the heels of a report last week by the conservative website RedState, whose article included text messages between Hill and the staffer, as well as photos of the two of them together.

That same article by Red State includes images purportedly from Heslep's since-deleted Facebook account, where he allegedly posted a screenshot of a text message between him and a friend in which he appears to admit knowing about a relationship between Kelly and Hill.

In a letter to Hill's family, friends, supporters and "members of my community" that a Fox News reporter posted on Wednesday, Hill said she is "fully and proactively cooperating with the Ethics Committee."

Hill in her letter said that "during the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign."

Hill went on to say: "I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment."

"For that, I apologize," Hill wrote.

On Friday, the Washington Examiner reported that the female campaign staffer has continued to receive monthly payments from Hill's campaign. Since April of 2019, according to Federal Election Commission records, she made a little over $14,000 in fundraising consulting fees. She was paid about $50,000 in her role as a campaign staffer from 2017 to 2018.

Inside the divorce complaint

Hill and Heslep had been married for nine years before he filed for divorce in Los Angeles court.

Prior to marriage, Heslep's divorce complaint says, Hill and Heslep "talked about what expectations each of us had about marriage."

Hill "told me that she wanted me to stay at home and care for our household. [Hill] told me that she did not like to do household chores and duties and wanted me to stay at home and do those things while she worked," the complaint says.

"Prior to marriage, [Hill was] attending college but she was very ambitious and had career goals where she saw herself being financially successful and busy in the work force," Heslep wrote, adding that he and Hill were each working as restaurant servers before getting married.

Hill was hired by a non-profit company, People Assisting the Homeless, as a grant writer, in 2009, and quickly began moving up the ranks in that organization.

"We had further talks about what I would do," Heslep wrote in his complaint. Hill "advised me that she wanted me to be a house husband."

"Our agreement was that I would stay at home and take care of all of the domestic duties and responsibilities while Hill worked," he wrote.

At some point around 2011, Heslep said in his complaint, Hill was in charge of multiple programs at her company.

One program needed a case manager, and Hill "convinced her employer to hire me," Heslep said in his complaint.

He worked in that role for about one year, earning around $32,000, court records state.

When that role ended, "I became a case manager for a homeless shelter located in Hollywood," he wrote. "This second job lasted for only several months when I was moved to another program because the Respondent's [Hill's] employer was concerned about nepotism and how it looked that she was my boss."

"My third position with People Assisting the Homeless was as a Section 8 coordinator," he wrote. "The third position lasted only several months."

Heselp said in his court filing that he did not like that third job so Hill "and I agreed that I should quit this job and return to staying home and caring for domestic duties."

In a new program opened with People Assisting the Homeless in 2013, according to Heslep's filing, he became a regional manager for that program, while Hill still worked there in as managing director/interim chief program officer at the organization, according to her LinkedIn profile.

"I was able to get this job primarily because of [Hill's] influence," Heslep wrote, noting that he only had a high school diploma.

Heslep was laid off in 2014, "and I have not been employed since that time," he wrote in his court filing.

"I did not have any special qualifications for these jobs that I was able to get with People Assisting the Homeless," Heslep wrote.

"It was the Repondent's [Hill's] influence that allowed me to work for this non-profit company," he wrote. "I estimate that [Hill] was earning approximately $180,000.00 annually at the time she quit her job to run for Congress."

In his complaint, Heslep says that he stayed at the couple's home and tended their pets and the residence after she won election to represent California's 25th Congressional District last year.

But on June 7, according to the complaint, Hill came home and told him she was leaving him.

She also took their "only operable vehicle and left me stranded at our residence," Heslep said in the complaint.

The suit also says that Hill later opened a bank account in her name and stopped depositing money into the one they shared, he said.

"I have had no funds from [Hill] to pay for my living expense for a period of approximately four weeks after she left me, until July 3, 2019," he wrote.

Heslep said in his filing that Hill on that day deposited $500 into their joint bank account "after I texted her and advised her that I needed money to buy food for our animals and myself."

Heslep in court papers asked a judge to order Hill to pay him spousal support and attorney fees.

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