A former staffer for a bipartisan commission once chaired by Rep. Alcee Hastings has filed a federal lawsuit which accuses the Florida Democrat of harassing her with “unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching.”
Winsome Packer, in a suit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch, accuses Hastings of harassing her when he was her boss at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Packer and Hastings knew one another through a mutual friend when they ran into each other on C Street in D.C. in March 2007, according to the lawsuit. When Hastings heard Packer, a Republican staffer on the Committee on Homeland Security until December 2006, was unemployed, he invited her to come interview for a position. After they met the next month, Hastings offered her a position and she started her job as a policy advisor on May 7, 2007.
Fred Turner, the staff director for Hastings, told Packer in December 2007 that Hastings wanted her to take one of the most prestigious positions on the committee as a representative to the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a position based in Austria, Packer alleges.
Hastings invited himself to visit her at her apartment in Vienna for a week once she was settled, according to the lawsuit. Packer says she later complained about Hastings’ actions to Turner, who said he would speak to the Congressman about the issue.
But when he returned to Vienna in May 2008, Packer says Hastings “hugged her with both arms, pressed his body against her body and pressed his face against her face. Prior to that instant, Mr. Hastings had never hugged her in such a manner,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Hastings told Packer that the only reason he was dating his deputy district director was because she had been his counsel in his bribery and impeachment trials that resulted in his removal from the federal bench and even told Packer he was dating another staff member.
Packer said she suffered health problems because of the stress caused by the situation. She filed a complaint in August with the congressional Office of Compliance asserting sexual harassment and retaliation, but the counseling period ended in September and mediation ended in December (the outcome was unclear in the lawsuit).
Hastings issued a statement responding to the allegations but said his “comments will be limited since I have not seen the complaint filed in U.S. District Court by Judicial Watch.”
“I have seen a draft complaint prepared by my accuser that contains numerous inaccuracies and untruths,” said Hastings. “I have never sexually harassed anyone. In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre!’
“I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. And when the truth comes to light and the personal agendas of my accusers are exposed, I will be vindicated.”