Several staff members working for Virginia freshman GOP Rep. Tom Garrett have resigned, complaining that he and his wife turned them into personal servants, forcing them to run personal errands, drive his daughters around, and even watch and clean up after their small dog.
"I don't know who I was working for: Was I working for him? Was I working for her?" one of the staffers, who didn't want to be named because of fears of retribution, told Politico. "We became their gofers."
Four former staffers speaking to Politico said they feared that if they refused orders from Garrett or his wife, Flanna, they would struggle in their careers, as the couple was allegedly known for having explosive tempers.
Matt Missen, a spokesman for Garrett, would not comment on a detailed list about the complaints, telling Politico that "we see no reason to respond to anonymous, unfounded allegations primarily targeting Congressman Garrett’s wife, made by POLITICO’s ‘unnamed’ sources. It is easy to spread untruths and even easier to exaggerate and imply wrongdoing when none exists.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy Keady, Garrett's chief of staff, resigned suddenly on Tuesday during a dispute with Garrett over allegations the couple was misusing official resources. Garrett on Wednesday told associates that he was considering not seeking reelection, but on Thursday, he said during a press conference that there is "no way in heck" he won't be back in Congress in 2019.
Most of the complaints surrounded Garrett's wife, with former staffers saying she comes to work with him most days.
Early on, they said she started asking her husband's aides to perform errands, including one time being called to pick her up at the grocery store and then helping her unload groceries, after she said Garrett was at a baseball game.
The staffers also claimed that the couple would sometimes forget that their dog, Sophie, was at the congressional office and they would have to take it back to Garrett's apartment in Washington.
The dog would sometimes defecate on the office floor, one source said, and aides had to clean up after it.
They also said they had to chauffeur the congressman's daughters from a previous marriage from his district in Scottsville, Virginia, a three hour drive away, and bring them to Washington.
The House Ethics manual prohibits lawmakers from using staff for tasks other than official congressional duties, such as personal errands, but Missen told Politico there is "no ethics investigation."
"Congressman Garrett has had lawyers from the House Ethics Committee meet with him and his staff (to include district staff via telephone) to brief everyone on the ethics rules pertaining to congressmen and staff, and to answer any questions," he said.
Garrett's office has one of the highest levels of turnovers in the House, information from the legislative data company LegiStorm notes. He lost more than 60 percent of his staff in 2017, compared to the usual 20 percent in other offices.
“I came aboard because I really, really believed in the message being presented and believed in Garrett as a person and as congressman,” said one of the former aides said. "I can take hard work. What I can’t put up with is these just mundane tasks that [were] being asked to be completed by him and his wife that had nothing to do with the job.”
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