Florida Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings in under investigation for overpaying staff—in particular his longtime girlfriend, Patricia Williams. The story came to light when the Washington Free Beacon posted the facts in a news report on March 9. In response, the congressional watchdog group, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), filed the complaint March 20.
Patricia Williams currently serves as the Deputy District Director in the Representative’s Broward County, Florida office. She receives the maximum amount allowed by a congressional staffer, $168,000 per year, even though she does not have the most responsibility in the office. She makes more even than Hastings’ D.C. chief of staff, traditionally the highest paid position in a congressional office.
Williams and Hastings’ met in the 1980s. He was a federal judge facing impeachment and she was on the legal team representing him. After the trial, he hired her as a staff assistant in 1993. She has since worked her way up to her current position. Congressional staffers salaries have only been publicly reported since 2000. Those records indicate that in 2001, Williams was paid $98,000 for her work as a staff assistant. The Washington Times reports that the median salary for a congressional staff assistant is from $30,000 to $35,000 per year. Even given points for loyalty and seniority, she is still ridiculously overpaid. In 2001, she made $121,307. All in all, Patricia Williams made $623,003 as a staff assistant during 2000-2005.
In 2006 Williams was promoted to Deputy District Director. Her subsequent raise increased her salary to $143,314. She continued to receive raises over the next several years, until 2012, when her salary peaked at the maximum allowable limit of $168,411. It has remained there for the last five years. Since 2000, it is calculated she has made $2.4 million in taxpayer money.
In 2011, Williams daughter, Maisha, was even hired on as a staff assistant. There are no rules prohibiting relationships with staffers, although there are rules against hiring family members. Hastings’ gets around that by stating they aren’t married. But there are ethic laws regarding nepotism.
The complaint filed by the watchdog group states, “This relationship along with the facts that Williams has been paid the maximum amount permitted by law for several years and is Hastings’ highest compensated employee, but not the staff member that generally has the most responsibilities, indicates serious ethical concerns. The House Ethics rules prohibit a Member from discriminating unfairly by dispensing special favors. More specifically, the House Code of Official Conduct prohibits a Member from retaining employees on the Member’s payroll who do not perform official duties commensurate with the compensation received. Each Member is ‘accountable for the pay and performance of staff.'”
Also of note, is the fact that one of Hastings’ staffers is the wife of an ex-employee. Dona Nichols-Jones is the wife of Mikel Jones who worked for Hastings from 1993 to 2011. Mikel was dismissed after he used a $600,000 business loan for personal use. In 2011, he was convicted of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud. Court records show that Dona was complicit in the crimes, assisting him in creating fake invoices, to send the money to themselves. The money was used to pay off credit card debt, travel, groceries, and other personal expenses. She was ordered by the court to pay $400,000 in restitution and served one day in prison. Hastings hired her back for part-time work and paid her about $30,000 per year.
So, with all of this shady money circling around, it would seem to be appropriate that Hasting’s 1981 impeachment had to do with dirty money as well. As a federal judge, he was charged with accepting a bribe in exchange for reducing the sentences of mobsters he convicted. He was acquitted in 1983 but later investigations found that he tampered with evidence, committed perjury, and conspired to accept bribes. He was impeached on 7 articles. All the while Williams was by his side, working on his behalf.
If the Congressman couldn’t seem any dirtier, there’s more. In 2011 Winsome Packer, a female staffer, filed a sexual harassment claim against Hastings. According the complaint, drafted by watchdog group Judicial Watch, “Mr. Hastings’ intention was crystal clear: he was sexually attracted to Ms. Packer, wanted a sexual relationship with her, and would help progress her career if she acquiesced to his sexual advances.” For over two years Ms. Packer cited she was, “forced to endure unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching by Mr. Hastings.”
Some of the items noted in the complaint included unwanted physical contact including full frontal hugs. He invited her on several occasions to come alone to his hotel room, as well as making sexual comments to her in public, asking her, “What kind of underwear are you wearing?” When she continuously rejected his advances, he eventually got the message and threatened her job. He also marginalized her in the office. The stress got so overwhelming, she was admitted to the emergency room for a severe reaction. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in 2012 and the House Ethics Committee opted not to probe the representative on the issue.
On the charge of nepotism, Hastings has not answered media requests for comment. This could finally be justice for a man who has consistently thwarted the law while he continued to make it for everyone else. Mark Twain said, “Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reason.”