Independent ethics panel probing Rep. Alcee Hastings for sexual harassment

President of the OSCE PA, Alcee Hastings, speaks during the plenary session of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) 01 July 2005 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Mandel Ngan
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.
Getty Images/Mandel Ngan

An independent ethics organization is looking into allegations that Rep. Alcee Hastings, sexually harassed a female staff member, according to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which brought the suit against the Florida Democrat.

Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president, said that investigators with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), contacted plaintiff Winsome Packer about the case in May.

"They contacted Ms. Packer and she's fully cooperating," Fitton told Hotsheet on Wednesday.

Packer, a staffer on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), filed a law suit against Hastings in March, alleging that she received "unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments and unwelcome touching by Mr. Hastings" between 2008 and 2010, while he was co-chairman of the commission.

The lawsuit also alleges that Fred Turner, Hastings's former chief of staff and a former staff director for the CSCE, tried to retaliate against Packer and issued "threats of termination" as a result of her continued complaints against Hastings. Both Turner and the CSCE are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Hastings has strongly denied the allegations against him, and suggested that "personal agendas" are at play.

"I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty," Hastings said in March, when the suit was brought against him. "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."

Hasting's lawyer, Tonya Robinson, reiterated the denial this week, noting that Hastings,"in the strongest terms, denies the charges."

"He is confident that he will be fully exonerated," Robinson told the Wall Street Journal. "Mr. Hastings has stated unequivocally that the record will show that the plaintiff's claims are untruthful and without merit."

The OCE has 90 days to investigate the case before issuing a recommendation as to whether or not the Ethics Committee should continue the investigation. The OCE is not authorized to comment on the case during the investigatory period.