By BLACK RADIO STAFF
WASHINGTON - An independent U.S. agency has denied claims that black Florida Democratic congressman Alcee Hastings made sexual advances toward female staff member, Winsome Packer.
Packer’s lawsuit alleges that Hastings kept asking her if he could stay at her apartment or to visit his hotel room in Vienna, and made comments including asking her what kind of underwear she was wearing.
Her complaint states that much of the harassment occurred when Hastings was in Europe on business for the commission, which advises on U.S. policy about security, human rights and other issues involving Europe.
The Helsinki Commission disputed the claims that were alleged to have taken place from 2008 - 2010, when Hastings was co-chairman.
The commission’s filing said that specific instances in which Hastings hugged Packer, gave her a music box or asked to see her apartment were out of general benevolence toward staff.
Packer’s suit names as defendants Hastings, the Helsinki Commission and commission official Fred Turner. Packer says Turner retaliated against her after she made her harassment claims.
In a separate filing, Turner asked to be dismissed from the suit, arguing that there’s no evidence he sought to retaliate against Packer. He said he took away some of her job duties after Packer cited problems of being “marginalized” by other colleagues.
Hastings has since asked the court to throw out the suit saying the case should be handled according to congressionally-approved administrative and judicial remedies - and not the U.S. District Court in Washington, where the plaintiff lodged her complaint.