Alcee Hastings Faces Ethics Investigation; Allegedly Too Touchy-Feely With Ex-Staffer

Miramar's Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings faces a House ethics investigation after he was allegedly a little too hands-on with a former female staffer.

Winsome Packer -- who worked on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation chaired by Hastings -- says the congressman made "unwelcome sexual advances" and engaged in a bit of "unwelcome touching."

According to Politico, Packer also claims that she then faced retaliation by Hastings and his staff director, Fred Turner, when she tried to report the alleged harassment.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the investigation -- under the Office of Congressional Ethics -- is in its preliminary stage, and the office has 90 days before it has to issue a formal recommendation for a probe by the House Ethics Committee.

Hastings' alleged sexual harassment debacle came to light in March, when the conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit full of the allegations on behalf of Packer.

Aside from the accusations of sexual harassment and the retaliation Packer faced, the lawsuit alleges that Packer was harassed because she was a Republican serving in a commission staffed mostly by Democrats.

It's been more than 20 years since the last time Hastings was found wrong through an ethics investigation -- as a U.S. District judge in South Florida in 1989.

The Senate convicted him of bribery and perjury, leading to his impeachment and removal.

Hastings was later acquitted by a jury after a criminal trial when his alleged cohort refused to testify for the same bribery and perjury charges.

He just managed to get out of another House ethics investigation earlier in the year, after Hastings and five other congressmen were accused of spending federal funds while visiting foreign countries.

That accusation was dropped after the panel declared a lack of evidence and "confusing rules."

Hastings denies the accusations brought on by the current investigation into the alleged sexual harassment, saying in March that the lawsuit includes "numerous inaccuracies and untruths," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"I have never sexually harassed anyone," Hastings told Politico. "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."

A couple of specifics about the alleged "unwelcome sexual advances" include Hastings trying to invite himself over to Packer's place while visiting in Vienna, as well as inquiring as to what type of underwear Packer was wearing in front of several people.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley