The House Ethics Committee is investigating Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., following sexual harassment allegations by a former staff member of a human-rights group the congressman supervised.
The announcement Wednesday triggered a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, which found enough reason to think an investigation is warranted, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported on its Florida Politics blog
The ethics advisory office, which also reviewed the case, did not make conclusions and said it was not able to obtain testimony from some witnesses. But it recommended a review by the ethics committee because of “the seriousness of the allegations,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
Former staff member Winsome Packer has accused Hastings of unwanted touching and crude comments while he was co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, the Sun Sentinel reported. Packer alleges that, in effect, he threatened her job if she complained.
Hastings again denied the allegations and accused Packer of having a personal agenda, including selling a novel.
“As I have said repeatedly since this matter first came to my attention, I unequivocally deny the allegations made by Ms. Packer,” Hastings said in a statement Wednesday. “The acts alleged are contrary to my character and to the main objective of my career in Congress, advancing the civil rights of all people.
“Furthermore, Ms. Packer’s allegations are completely false. I never had a romantic or sexual interest in her, nor did I ever express or otherwise suggest that I had any such interest.
“I look forward to the Committee on Ethics’ review of these bogus charges, and am confident that it will conclude, as have the General Council of the U.S. House of Representatives, Counsel of the House Employment Counsel, and the United States Justice Department, that the claims are false.”
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