Guidelines Released on Member-Page Interactions

Posted April 3, 2008 at 6:02pm

The House Page Board released guidelines for how Members should interact with pages Thursday, with suggestions such as maintaining “appropriate physical and emotional boundaries.”

The list is the latest in a series of changes the board has made in response to a House Inspector General report that investigated the security of the House page program. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) asked for that report — and an eventual investigation by an as-yet-unnamed independent group — after two Republican board members resigned in December and claimed the program was inadequately managed.

Board Chairman Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to Members on Thursday, writing that the guidelines reflect “the Board’s commitment to promoting the highest ethical standards in all interactions between Pages and those who come in contact with them.”

The 12 guidelines range from the obvious to the stringent. One asks that Members and employees of the House treat pages with “respect, integrity, dignity, and consideration,” while another limits any gift to a page to less than $50.

Members also shouldn’t go on any “off-campus” activities with pages that are not an “officially approved Page Program function,” unless parents and the Office of the Clerk gives permission, the document says.

The list seems to address the concerns surrounding the 2006 scandal involving then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who allegedly exchanged lewd online messages with underage pages. In addition to asking that Members don’t go on unofficial outings with pages, the board also asks Members and House employees to “avoid, where practicable, being alone with a single House Page.”

The document stresses, however, that they are releasing “general principles” and not hard-fast rules.

In recent months, the board has made other changes as well, including creating a new Deputy Clerk that would oversee and manage the House page program. The position has not yet been filled.

Much of this comes from suggestions in the House IG report. In his Dear Colleague letter, Kildee promised to continue to implement other changes, though he didn’t specify what those would be.

The guidelines represent the first decision made by a full board since December, when Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) resigned. Boehner held off on filling the two seats until after the IG report. About a month ago, he appointed Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) to the board, signaling his approval of recent changes to the page program.

Brown-Waite and Capito had resigned after four pages were expelled last fall — two for shoplifting and two for sexual misconduct.