The House Ethics Committee has announced that it will not launch a formal investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) lodged by a woman who worked for him when he served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission. It will, however, continue to “gather additional information necessary to complete its review.”
Hastings has all along denied any wrongdoing and says the employee, Winsome Packer, has made the accusations against him to promote her “side career as a novelist” and self-published book titled A Personal Agenda. Packer also has filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida lawmaker, accusing him of making “unwanted sexual advances” and “unwelcome touching.”
“As I have said repeatedly since this matter first came to my attention, I unequivocally deny the allegations made by Ms. Packer,” he said in a statement. “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.”
But according to a detailed report released by the ethics panel, Hastings did on occasion get too comfortable around Packer and others who worked for the commission. For example, he said in one conversation with Packer that he has difficulty sleeping after sex; other men and women may have been present when he made the remark.
And, one night while at a bar with Packer and other staffers he said that he didn’t “understand how male and female Members of Congress, but especially female members, can stay in their clothing, specifically their underwear, for sixteen hours at a time,” and that he showers during the day. The report also notes that all but one of the Helsinki Commission’s staff members who may have witnessed such conversations refused to cooperate with the ethics panel’s review.
Still, Hasting maintains that he never had a “romantic or sexual interest” in Packer and that he never did or said anything to suggest such an 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,” he said.
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