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Dan Snyder's legal team sent private investigators to the homes of accusers, offered 'hush money' ahead of Wilkinson report, says House committee

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Ahead of a Wednesday morning hearing on the Washington Commanders' workplace, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a 29-page document summarizing its investigation into dozens of allegations of sexual harassment by team executives.

The hearing will begin at 11 a.m. and can be viewed here.

Some of the most chilling testimony in the report comes from Abigail Welch, a former cheerleading captain with the team, who describes how a private investigator who said he represented Dan Snyder's legal team spent days waiting outside her suburban Texas home.

The investigator first arrived, Welch said, when she was away.

"My neighbor who was taking care of my dog texted me and told me that a strange man was sitting in a car outside of my house watching the house, and that he had approached her at her home asking questions about me," she told the committee.

"I was scared because I had three young children ... and I was nervous not knowing what this man wanted and how far he was going to go to get what he wanted."

Welch said on a group text with former Washington Redskins cheerleaders, at least five others reported similar experiences.

The committee said that while attorney Beth Wilkinson was looking into allegations of rampant sexual misconduct at the team, Snyder was conducting his own "shadow investigation" in an attempt to pin the blame for the company's alleged unsafe work environment on others.

Snyder's legal team event went as far as compiling a 100-slide presentation that charted links between various whistleblowers and journalists to the team employees he suspected of being in on the conspiracy.

While the team openly stated it would cooperate with the investigation, there were a number of legal maneuverings happening behind the scenes in an attempt to stymie full disclosure, including a court filings that sought to keep Wilkinson from learning about a $1.6 million sexual harassment settlement from an accusation against Snyder, according to the committee.

Former employee Melanie Coburn told the committee she was offered money in exchange for not speaking about the investigation.

"[Mr. Snyder] offered hush money to a group of us in exchange for our silence last February, but we declined," she said. "This was offensive and certainly felt like intimidation and witness tampering to us."

The committee found that the NFL was aware of Snyder's use of private investigators in Aug. 2020, but he continued to use them through at least the spring of 2021, throughout Wilkinson's investigation.

Welch said when she finally spoke with the investigator, he described himself as working "on behalf of the Washington Redskins," and asked a number of questions about former president Bruce Allen, who Snyder's team has previously blamed for the workplace environment that led to the allegations.

She described the investigator as not fully on point, though.

She said of his business card, "The text box that says 'Use this section to write about your business,' et cetera, et cetera was not deleted or was not filled in, and so it seemed sloppy."

She added later: "He also flashed a badge and told me that he was former DEA."

The presentation from Snyder's legal team focuses on a redacted name, believed to be former executive assistant Mary-Ellen Blair, who Snyder has accused of working in concert with the team's former minority owners to provide evidence against him.

The findings by Snyder's group suggest that Blair offered to assist former general manager Scot McCloughan in a legal battle with the team over back pay, offering him photos of liquor from around the office.

The league has banned the serving of alcohol at team functions since 2007.

The committee also heard from former team COO David Pauken, who said he was chided by Snyder for not producing a good-looking cheerleading squad in the early 2000s.

The committee wrote: "Mr. Pauken testified that on more than one occasion, when he was summoned to Mr. Snyder’s box before a game, Mr. Snyder remarked to a friend, 'hey, do you think Dave is gay?' And his friend would say, yeah, he must be gay. And Dan would say, yeah, he has to be gay. As ugly as these cheerleaders are. Pauken, are you gay? You must be gay. How could you have a cheerleading squad that looked like this?”

The committee noted that the NFL and team have refused to turn over Wilkinson's findings, and at least 40,000 documents from her investigative file.

The group concluded that simultaneous to Wilkinson's investigation, Snyder was working to craft a counter-narrative that exonerated him.

The committee wrote: "Mr. Snyder and his team of lawyers compiled information obtained through abusive litigation tactics and private investigators who targeted victims and witnesses of the Commanders' toxic work environment into a 100-slide dossier. Mr. Snyder's goal appears to have been to craft an exculpatory narrative to present to the NFL showing that he was not responsible for the Commanders' toxic work environment but instead was the victim of a coordinated smear campaign."

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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