Ethics panel closes investigation into Rep. Alcee Hastings's relationship with staffer

Ethics panel closes investigation into Rep. Alcee Hastings's relationship with staffer
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it is closing its probe into whether Rep. Alcee HastingsAlcee (Judge) Lamar HastingsFlorida county official apologizes for social media post invoking Hitler  Comedian Joel McHale: Reach out and help local restaurants, wear masks with your favorite message; Frontline Foods's Ryan Sarver says we are in inning 3 of the COVID-19 ballgame Bottom line MORE’s (D-Fla.) relationship with a member of his staff was in violation of House rules, clearing him from allegations that he received improper gifts from the aide.

The panel announced the investigation in November, with the panel saying it was looking into whether “Hastings’ relationship with the employed individual 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 said Friday it learned that the Florida Democrat is now married to the staffer in question and said the House rules under review don't apply to spouses.

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Hastings previously acknowledged the relationship with the aide, Patricia Williams, who serves as his deputy district director. Williams served as Hastings's counsel in the 1980s when he faced accusations of accepting bribes as a federal judge. He was later impeached.

“During its review, the Committee became aware that Representative Hastings has been married to the individual employed in his congressional office since January 2019. Accordingly, Representative Hastings is not in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a), as its terms do not apply to relationships between two people who are married to each other, nor is he in violation of the House Gift Rule, which permits Members to accept gifts from relatives,” the Ethics Committee said in its statement.

The panel also investigated whether Hastings was in violation of the House’s rules on nepotism, but determined that he was complying with the rules since Williams was hired prior to a rules change barring members from employing family members.

“However, the Committee continued to review Representative Hastings’ conduct prior to his marriage. The Committee also considered whether Representative Hastings had complied with the laws and rules relating to nepotism. Following its review, the Committee determined to take no further action in this matter,” the statement said.

“The Committee’s determination was based on the particular facts of the matter, including the fact that Representative Hastings’ spouse’s employment began prior to the 113th Congress and is therefore not prohibited under clause 8(c) of House Rule XXIII. The Committee considers this matter closed.”

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While the Ethics Committee declared it was closing its investigation into Hastings, it separately announced it is establishing an investigative subcommittee to further probe allegations that Guam's delegate to Congress, Michael San Nicolas, had an improper sexual relationship with one of his staffers. 

The panel announced that investigation last year.

The House adopted a rule in 2018 barring lawmakers from having sexual relationships with a member of their staff.