A government watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics calling for an investigation of Rep. Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.) for maxing out the congressional salary of his longtime girlfriend for five straight years.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a D.C.-based group, filed the complaint following the publication of a story in the Washington Free Beacon on the amount the Florida congressman has paid his girlfriend, Patricia Williams, who works out of his Broward County, Fla. office.
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Hastings has paid Williams the maximum congressional salary allowed, $168,411, for five straight years and has employed her since 1993. Williams has collected $2.4 million in salary since 2000, the first year congressional salary data is readily available. Williams is also paid more than Hastings' D.C. chief of staff, a position that is normally the highest paid in a congressional office.
"Each Member is responsible for employing his congressional staff, including determining the appropriate compensation and other terms of employment," the complaint reads. "Since 1993, Representative Hastings has used taxpayer funds to employ his longtime girlfriend, Patricia Williams. Currently, Williams is paid the maximum amount permitted under the law for a congressional staffer as the deputy director of Hastings' Broward County Florida office."
FACT notes that, although the personal relationship is not prohibited, personal ties raise concerns of favoritism or unjust payments from United States Treasury funds.
"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," the complaint says. "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.'"
FACT urged the Board to immediately investigate the issue and take appropriate action in response to the apparent violation of House of Representative Ethics Rules.
In addition to Patricia, Hastings also employs Maisha Williams, his girlfriend's daughter. Maisha works out of his Broward County, Fla. office as a staff assistant with her mother.
Rep. Hastings' office did not return a request for comment on the complaint. The Office of Congressional Ethics also did not return a request for comment.