The House Ethics Committee announced on Thursday that it was opening up an investigation into Democrat Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL) over his relationship with his longtime girlfriend who works for him as a government employee.
“The Ethics Committee didn’t identify the staffer in question, but the case clearly refers to Patricia Williams, the deputy director in Hastings’ office in his Broward-Palm Beach County district,” The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. “Williams, who is the congressman’s highest-paid staffer, and Hastings have been in a relationship for decades. And critics have raised questions about it for years.”
In a statement, the House Ethics Committee wrote:
The Committee is aware of public allegations arising out of Representative Alcee Hastings’ personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office. On May 14, 2019, the Committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), began an investigation regarding the allegations. The Committee is specifically considering whether Representative Hastings’ relationship with the individual employed in his congressional office is in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a), and whether Representative Hastings has received any improper gifts, including any forbearance, from that employee. The Committee continues to gather additional information regarding the allegations.
While there is no indication that anything non-consensual occurred, the Sun-Sentinel reports that the relationship may violate the following Congressional rule:
A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves. This paragraph does not apply with respect to any relationship between two people who are married to each other.
In a statement, Hastings said, “I have cooperated with the Committee since May 14, 2019. As they continue to conduct their work, I stand ready to fully cooperate with their inquiry.”
This is not the first time that Hastings has faced controversy involving allegations surroundings relationships.
“The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings,” Roll Call reported in December 2017. “Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.”
The story about Hastings and Packer came at the height of the #MeToo movement just a couple of months after allegations against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein led to allegations being made against numerous powerful men across the country.
Hastings denied the allegations made by Packer, telling Roll Call: “Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer. This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made. I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer.”
The Ethics Committee’s investigation into Hastings comes just weeks after it announced that it had launched an investigation into Democrat Rep. Katie Hill (CA) for allegedly having a relationship with one of her congressional staffers. Just days after the committee announced their investigation, Hill resigned from Congress.