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Fla Dem Rep Hastings under ethics probe for unseemly relationship with congressional aide

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Rep. Alcee Hastings is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations of an improper relationship with a staffer.

The Florida Democrat, with a past that has seen multiple ethics issues, has admitted that he is in a relationship with his deputy district director, Patricia Williams, and the committee announced Thursday that it is looking into whether any House of Representatives rules were broken in the course of their relationship.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations arising out of Representative Alcee Hastings’ personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office,” chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics, Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida said in a statement released Thursday.

The investigation into the 83-year-old Democrat began in May, according to the press release which did not name the aide who once served as counsel to the lawmaker when he was impeached in 1988 for bribery and perjury. Hastings became the sixth federal judge in US history to be impeached and removed from office following his conviction by the US Senate in 1989.

“The Committee is specifically considering whether Representative Hastings’ relationship with the individual employed in his congressional office is in violation” of House rules adopted last year in the midst of the #MeToo movement which prohibit House members from having sexual relationships with staffers on the committees they serve on. The committee is investigating if Hastings received any improper gifts from his deputy director who serves in the office in his Broward-Palm Beach County district.

“The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules,” the statement read.

Hastings, who has been in a relationship with Williams for years, said he has “cooperated with the committee” since the outset of the investigation.

“As they continue to conduct their work, I stand ready to fully cooperate with their inquiry,” he said in a statement Thursday according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

But Hastings has previously dismissed ethical concerns about his relationship with Williams, who was disbarred for misusing client funds, according to an article last month in The Palm Beach Post, which reported that she “has been paid nearly $3 million in taxpayer-funded salary” since being employed on Hastings’ congressional staff.

“However it looks, it’s been looking like that for 25 years,” the Democrat told the Post which also reported that the couple bought a $700,000 house together in 2017.

Florida’s first African-American federal judge, Hastings was appointed to the state’s federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. A member of the House Rules Committee, the Democrat began serving in Congress in 1993 and earlier this year announced that he was receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer.

The congressman was once accused by a female staffer of making unwanted sexual advances toward her when she worked for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Hastings served as chairman. Hastings was cleared by the House Ethics Committee in 2014 due to insufficient evidence.

Hastings brushed aside allegations of wrongdoing with his relationship with Williams back in 2017 when he was included by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust in its list of “worst ethics violators” of the year.

“This particular group can say or do what they want. But I’m not in violation of any ethics or law. Patricia has worked with me for 25 years,” he told the Sun-Sentinel in 2017.

The announcement of the investigation Thursday by the Ethics Committee, which also announced investigations of three other members of Congress, including Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib, followed multiple reports in the last week about Hastings’ relationship with Williams.

The investigations also come in the wake of the resignation of former Rep. Katie Hill. The California Democrat stepped down last month amid accusations that she had a sexual relationship with a member of her staff.

Frieda Powers

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