The House Ethics Committee on Friday closed its investigation into whether Rep. Alcee L. Hastings violated a 2018 House rule by engaging in a sexual relationship with his staffer, citing that the Florida Democrat married the woman, Patricia Williams, in January 2019 — even though that occurred well after the rule went in effect.
In February of 2018, after the emergence of several sexual misconduct scandals on Capitol Hill, House rules were updated to include a clause prohibiting members from engaging in sexual relationships with subordinates, but it exempted married couples from the prohibition.
It is unclear why Hastings’ alleged conduct after the 2018 rule was implemented, and prior to the 2019 marriage, doesn’t subject him to any repercussions from the Ethics panel.
Representatives for Hastings did not respond to a request for comment. Back in November when the Ethics Committee announced its probe, Hastings said in a statement: “I have cooperated with the Committee since May 14, 2019. As they continue to conduct their work, I stand ready to fully cooperate with their inquiry.”
Tom Rust, a spokesperson for the committee, had no comment.
“However, the Committee continued to review Representative Hastings’ conduct prior to his marriage,” the Ethics Committee said in its announcement. “The Committee also considered whether Representative Hastings had complied with the laws and rules relating to nepotism.”
Williams was listed as making $168,411 annually as the office’s deputy district director, the highest salary in Hastings’ office, according to payroll records from May 2019.
Lale Morrison, the chief of staff, was listed as making $88,411 a year, according to the records. The average salary for a district director in 2018 was $94,042, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
This was the third Ethics Committee investigation within the past year into a member allegedly having sexual relations with a subordinate.
Former Rep. Katie Hill, a California Democrat, resigned shortly after the Ethics panel announced her inquiry in October 2019. On Friday, the Ethics Committee announced the establishment of an investigative subcommittee into Del. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, D-Guam, regarding an alleged relationship with a staffer, Jennifer Winn, among other allegations.
A nepotism rule in the House forbids members from hiring family members but does not apply to employees hired before the 113th Congress. The nepotism rules do not apply to a significant other, such as a girlfriend or boyfriend.