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House Ethics Committee extends Alcee Hastings probe

The House Ethics Committee said it will take another 45 days to look into allegations that U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, subjected a former employee to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency.

Hastings has asked a court to throw out claims that he subjected a former employee to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency. The Office of Congressional Ethics this summer contacted the staffer, Winsome Packer.

Judicial Watch in March filed a lawsuit against Hastings on Packer's behalf. The lawsuit alleges that Packer, a staffer on a House commission that Hastings led, was subjected to a "never-ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances" and was threatened and intimidated when she tried to report Hastings' behavior. Hastings in March called the assertions "ludicrous" and said he'd "never sexually harassed anyone." His attorney, Tonya Robinson, said the lawmaker was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations in the lawsuit "and, in the strongest terms, denies the charges. Mr. Hastings has stated unequivocally that the plaintiff's claims are untruthful and without merit."

Packer says Hastings asked several times to stay at her apartment or to get her to visit his hotel room in Vienna, Austria, when she worked as staff representative and he was co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission. She also said Hastings asked her what kind of underwear she was wearing and alleged that much of the harassment occurred when he was in Europe on business for the commission, which advises on U.S. policy about security, human rights and other issues in Europe.

The committee said in a statement that the "mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee." The committee said it will announce its course of action on or before Jan. 11.

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