Alcee Hastings
Congressman Alcee Hastings faces an ethics probe. Image: cliff1066(tm)/Flickr/CC BY

The Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating sexual harassment charges made against Florida congressman Alcee Hastings (D). The probe comes following a March lawsuit filed by Hastings’s former aide, Winsome Packer. The charges allege that Packer was subjected to inappropriate behavior from her boss. This is not the first time Hastings has faced charges of misconduct.

Judicial Watch didn’t approach  OCE

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit last March on Packer’s behalf. According to the group’s president, Tom Fritton, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has met with Packer at least once. However, Fritton says that Judicial Watch did not approach the OCE about the matter.

The OCE is a non-partisan group that reviews “allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the United States House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics.” The office, established in 2008, has 90 days to look into the matter before deciding whether it warrants recommendation to the House Ethics Committee.

‘Unwelcome sexual advances’

Packer is a former staffer on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, for which Hastings was chairman. In the suit, Packer alleged that she was “forced to endure unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments and unwelcome touching” from the congressman. She also asserts that she met retaliation from Hastings and staff director Fred Turner when she tried to report the behavior.

Hastings denies the charges

Congressman Hastings has strongly denied the charges. “I have never sexually harassed anyone,” he said. “In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre!’ I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. And when the truth comes to light and the personal agendas of my accusers are exposed, I will be vindicated.”

Not the first charges Hastings has faced

Hastings has faced other charges of ethical misconduct in the past. He is one of several lawmakers who has been investigated by the House Ethics Committee over misuse of overseas travel funds. The Committee, however, dropped that investigation earlier this year. In 1989 Hastings was impeached on bribery and perjury charges when he served as a U.S. District Judge. He was acquitted on the same criminal charges when an alleged co-conspirator refused to testify.



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