Judicial Watch announced Monday that it was suing Rep. Alcee Hastings over allegations that the Florida Democrat sexually harassed a female aide.
Hastings vigorously denied the allegation, saying it has more to do with the “personal agendas” of his accusers than with facts.
The suit involves allegations stemming from Hastings’ time as chairman of Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.
In a complaint filed in D.C. federal court on behalf of commission staffer Winsome Packer, the group charged that Hastings had engaged in a pattern of “unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome touching and retaliation” against Packer while the two worked at the Helsinki Commission.
Packer is also the author of “A Personal Agenda,” a 2010 crime and romance novel based in Washington, D.C., that involves the murder of a “black and disgraced ex-Congressman,” according to the book’s summary.
According to the suit, Packer alleges Hastings repeatedly sexually harassed her starting in January 2008 and ending in February 2010. Packer also alleges that Hastings and commission Staff Director Fred Turner sought to pressure her into not coming forward regarding her allegations and intimidated her.
Hastings said in a statement Monday afternoon that he had not seen the lawsuit, but he had seen “a draft complaint prepared by my accuser that contains numerous inaccuracies and untruths. I have never sexually harassed anyone. 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!’”
Hastings proclaimed “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.”
Congressional employees, including House and Senate aides, may file formal harassment complaints with the Office of Compliance under the Congressional Accountability Act, which applied laws covering civil rights, fair employment and discrimination to Capitol Hill offices.
Aides working for Members on the Helsinki Commission — an independent agency made up mostly of Members of Congress and housed in the Ford House Office Building — are covered by the act, and in August of last year, Packer filed a formal complaint with OOC.
The compliance process is confidential, and the OOC does not confirm ongoing cases, but Packer’s suit claims that she went through a mandatory counseling and mediation period this fall before filing her case in court.
This is not the first time Judicial Watch has set its sights on Hastings. In 2007, the group filed a wrongful termination suit against Hastings, who upon becoming chairman of the Helsinki Commission fired counsel Matt Milosch. That case was closed less than two months after it was brought when Milosch moved to dismiss the case.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.