(HNewsWire West TX) A former female staffer for a congressional commission received $220,000 as part of a settlement from a lawsuit she filed alleging Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., sexually harassed her.

The former staffer, Winsome Packer, worked for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, and accused Hastings of "unwelcome touching" and "unwelcome sexual advances" in a lawsuit filed against him, according to Roll Call.

Packer also alleged Hastings threatened to fire her for objecting to his behavior.

As part of her job with the commission, Packer was stationed in Vienna and often traveled with Hastings, then the commission’s chairman, to foreign countries. When she was with Hastings, the congressman would allegedly ask to stay at Packer’s apartment or come to her hotel room. He also hugged her often and, on one occasion, allegedly asked what kind of underwear she had on.

Packer, a former Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, filed a complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2010. Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, filed a lawsuit against Hastings and the Helsinki Commission on behalf of Packer in 2011.

In 2012, Hastings was dropped from the lawsuit after arguing the federal statute Packer sued under didn’t apply to lawmakers.

The Office of Compliance approved the settlement, which was paid by the Treasury Department. Documents obtained by Roll Call show Packer received the settlement payment of $220,000 in May 2014.

Hastings refuted the allegations Packer made against him in court documents, and called them “ludicrous.” He also denied having any knowledge of the settlement.

In a statement to Roll Call, the Florida Democrat said the lawsuit Packer filed against him, as well as an investigation into the allegations conducted by the House Ethics Committee, were dismissed.

“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” Hastings said in a statement to Roll Call. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings also said he is “outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer.”

The House Ethics Committee completed the investigation into the allegations against Hastings in Dec. 2014, but said the most serious of the charges were “not supported by evidence.” The Florida Democrat did, though, “admit to certain conduct that was less than professional.”
washingtonexaminer.com

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