Report: Allegations Against Tom Garrett Illustrate How Not to Use Official Resources

House Ethics Committee will lose jurisdiction before full report can be issued

Outgoing Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., was the target of an ethics investigation that also looked into his wife’s conduct.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Outgoing Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., was the target of an ethics investigation that also looked into his wife’s conduct.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 2, 2019 at 7:38pm

A report released Wednesday by the House Ethics Committee on allegations against Rep Tom Garrett sought to remind House members and staff of guidelines for using official resources and staff and the role of spouses in Congressional offices.

A statement from the panel said that the committee will lose jurisdiction over the matter before a full report can be issued. But it sought to use Garrett’s situation to provide guidance to the House community.

The investigation’s pace was slowed by  “lack of full cooperation from Representative Garrett’s wife, as well as several current and former members of his congressional staff,” according to the statement, which was released along with the 50-page report.

The House Ethics panel began the inquiry into the outgoing Virginia Republican on June 8 and received a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics on Sept. 5. The committee extended the inquiry in late September and announced on Dec. 4 that it was continuing its inquiry.

 The report, released on the final day of the 115th Congress, stated that evidence showed Garrett likely misused official resources and improperly accepted gifts in the form of persona services.

Garrett would have been required to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the value of those misused official resources and personally compensate their staff for their gifts of personal services, “if the Committee had not lost jurisdiction here,” the report said.

The Ethics Committee staff, which put together the report, found that Garrett “failed to place any limits on Mrs. Garrett’s interactions with staff, which not only exacerbated the misuse of official resources in his office but resulted in many of his staff feeling disparaged and bullied.”

Garrett’s wife Flanna is a key figure in the report, which indicates that a congressional spouse’s interactions cannot be limitless.

“Mrs. Garrett’s involvement and use of staff exceeded the limits of appropriateness, given the frequency with which Mrs. Garrett made requests of staff to perform unofficial tasks of a personal nature, and the negative treatment she paid staff who failed to honor requests or perform those tasks to her satisfaction,” it reads.

When making certain requests, the report states that Mrs. Garrett sometimes stated that the request came from Garrett himself by using the phrase, “Tom asked me to tell you.”

Mrs. Garrett’s use of this phrase was so frequent that, according to the report, when sending text messages to staff, she used an acronym of that phrase (TAMTTY), which autocorrected in her phone to “TAMMY.”

The Ethics staff report says that “Garrett and his staff appear to have been unaware that the personal assistance staff provided on their own time was in violation of House regulations and federal law.”

It goes on to say that many of the witnesses interviewed had not worked on Capitol Hill before they began working in Garrett’s office in the House. for some,  it was their first job after college.

Garrett has also been plagued by questions about whether his alcohol use  affected his work in Congress. Garrett did not seek a second House term, announcing in May that he would be leaving Congress to confront his excessive drinking.

According to the report, Garrett admitted that “while he may have drank prior to House votes and during telephone town halls, he never did so to the point of impairment.”

 

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