U.S. Rep Alcee Hastings faces ethics violations over relationship with staffer

Longtime South Florida congressman 'ready to fully cooperate' with investigation

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The House Ethics Committee released a statement Thursday that it has opened an investigation into Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., the U.S. Representative for Florida's 20th Congressional District. That district includes portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, and includes parts of Miramar, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. 

The release from the House Ethics Committee stated that the committee is aware of public allegations "arising out of Representative Alcee Hastings' personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office." The individual was not named. Hastings has, however, admitted to being in a long-term relationship with his aide, Patricia Williams, who serves as his deputy district director.

The committee began an investigation on May 14, 2019, regarding the allegations.  On Thursday, it stated: "The Committee is specifically considering whether Representative Hastings’ relationship with the individual employed in his congressional office is in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a), and whether Representative Hastings has received any improper gifts, including any forbearance, from that employee.  The Committee continues to gather additional information regarding the allegations."  

Last year, the House adopted a rule preventing members of Congress from having a sexual relationship with a member of their staff.

 Freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California resigned in October after an investigation by the same committee to determine whether she had an inappropriate relationship with an aide in her congressional office. She denied the allegation and said her estranged husband had launched a "smear" campaign against her.

On his website Thursday, Hastings, 83, responded to the inquiry.

"I have cooperated with the committee since May 14, 2019," he said. "As they continue to conduct their work, I stand ready to fully cooperate with their inquiry."

Hastings was the subject of a previous ethics investigation in 2012, when a woman who once worked for him said he made unwanted sexual advances and threatened her job. Winsome Packer accused Hastings of sexual harassment. He denied the accusations and was ultimately cleared in the investigation, but was later sued by the woman. The case dragged on for four years. Packer was awarded $220,000 of public funds in one of the largest secret settlements paid out by the congressional Office of Compliance.

In 1981, Hastings was indicted on bribery charges stemming from actions he allegedly took while he served as a federal judge. During that case, he was represented by Williams, according to the National Review. He was acquitted in court, but was impeached and convicted in Congress.

A year after his impeachment, in 1990, Hastings represented Miami cult leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh in federal court. 

A 26-year veteran of the House, Hastings is a 14-term Democrat. The congressman announced in January he was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.