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Wednesday
Jan112012

Rep. Alcee Hastings Ethics Investigation Extended

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While a federal lawsuit continues, the House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday it will not conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations that Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings sexually harassed a former employee and retaliated against her after she complained about it.

Reps. Jo Bonner and Linda Sanchez, the chairman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, issued a joint statement Wednesday, expressing that while they will not impanel an investigative subcommittee, they will continue to review the case and gather additional information necessary to complete the review. The lawmakers have already once extended the committee’s review of the matter.

In a detailed statement on his website, Hastings took Wednesday’s news as a win, and emphasized that he “unequivocally” denies the allegations, which he called “completely false.”

The alleged harassment and retaliation began in 2008, according a public interest group that investigates government corruption, Judicial Watch, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Winsome Packer.

Parker, a female employee who says she was repeatedly subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances,” “unwelcome touching” and retaliation, worked with Hastings when he was chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.  

Packer experienced, “insomnia, anxiety, depression, high-blood pressure, and developed symptoms of coronary artery disease,” as a direct result of the alleged sexual harassment, according to Judicial Watch, and at one point symptoms became so severe that she collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room.  Packer was subsequently prescribed medication and is under the care of a physician because of the severity of her heart problems.  

Hastings has repeatedly denied accusations, calling the allegations “ludicrous” and a “lie.” When news broke last spring that a lawsuit was filed U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, he vowed to be vindicated.

The Office of Congressional Ethics voted last September for the Ethics Committee to conduct a probe of Hastings. Further review of the ethics referral does not necessarily indicate the judgment of the committee whether any violation has actually occurred, and Hastings' political opponents are likely to cry foul over the delay.

Hastings, a former federal judge, was impeached by the House and, after a trial, removed from the bench by the Senate in 1989 for bribery and perjury.  He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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