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Page Overseer Testifies In Foley Case

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. speaks at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., March 16, 2004. Foley submitted a letter of resignation from Congress on Friday, Sept. 29,2006, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page, according to a congressional official. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File)
AP Photo/Phil Coale, File
The chief congressional overseer of House pages, who says he tried to stop ex-Rep. Mark Foley from e-mailing a Louisiana page in late 2005, was questioned Friday by House investigators.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who testified behind closed doors, has said he kept the two other House members overseeing the pages in the dark as he confronted Foley last fall. Shimkus, chairman of the House Page Board, said he was following the wishes of the boy's parents by not telling the other two lawmakers who oversee the high school page program.

A four-member ethics investigating panel, operating in closed session, is hearing key witnesses with knowledge of how Republicans handled several alarms raised about Foley's conduct over the past five years. The Florida Republican resigned Sept. 29 after he was confronted with sexually explicit instant messages sent to former male pages.

Foley's one-time chief of staff testified before the investigative panel for nearly five hours Thursday. Kirk Fordham has said publicly that he raised alarms with House Speaker Dennis Hastert's top aide nearly three years ago.

Fordham would not comment on his testimony. His extensive knowledge of Foley's actions include the Florida Republican's attempt to enter the page dorm while drunk several years ago, one of the events that triggered several alarms raised by Fordham with House officials, according to a source familiar with Fordham's actions and knowledge.

Hastert, R-Ill., has said he learned of inappropriate approaches by Foley in late September and his aides found out in the fall of 2005. Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, has denied that Fordham contacted him at least three years ago, contradicting Fordham and creating one of the major conflicts the committee must resolve.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said after Fordham's testimony: "The ethics committee is investigating this matter and we are confident in its ability to determine the real facts. The speaker has said that any person who is found guilty of improper conduct involving sexual contact or communication with a page should immediately resign, be fired, or be subjected to a vote of expulsion."

Fordham has made several public statements on his actions and has been questioned by the FBI.

The Page Board consists of three lawmakers and two House officers who set policy for the program that brings teenagers to Congress to attend school and perform errands in the chamber during sessions. The board does not, however, provide daily supervision of the pages, leaving that to House staff members.

Shimkus' office said that he and then-House clerk Jeff Trandahl – who also was on the board — confronted Foley in his office last fall after hearing from Hastert's aides about the overly friendly e-mail to the former Louisiana page. Shimkus said he told Foley to cease all contact with the teenager.

The uninformed members of the page board were Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

"I think Congressman Shimkus acted in an expedited manner to find out what happened," while respecting the wishes of the family, Hastert said in support of Shimkus' decision to keep the two other lawmakers out of the loop.

As lawmakers investigate why it took so long for Foley's proclivities to be exposed, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson spoke with a former page who saw the warning signs.

"It was known he would talk to pages on the House floor and would also take pages out to dinner and keep in contact with them after the program," said Richard Nguyen, a page in 2001.

But that friendliness crossed the line.

"When I was walking back into the House chamber I saw him conversing with another male page, and that's perfectly normal," Nguyen said, "but at one point he decided to pat that page's behind."

Nguyen said he thought it was strange but did not report it.

"Being thrown into a new environment with new people and coming from different places I wasn't sure what the social norms were for different types of people."

Despite what he's learned, Nguyen says he hopes Foley's antics don't destroy the whole program which he still considers one of the most enriching experiences he's had.