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Agency Denies Fla. Rep. Hastings Sexually Harassed Aide

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(Source: AP)

(Source: AP)

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WASHINGTON (CBS4)– An independent U.S.agency is denying claims that a former co-chairman, Rep. Alcee Hastings, made sexual advances toward a staff member and sought to retaliate when she refused.

In a court filing Saturday, the Helsinki Commission disputed the sexual harassment allegations by Winsome Packer, the commission’s staff representative in Vienna from 2008-2010 when Hastings, a Florida Democrat, 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. Reviewing each of Packer’s claims, the commission denied that some took place and said it didn’t have enough information to know what happened in other instances.

Packer’s lawsuit, filed in March in U.S. District Court inWashington, alleges thatHastingskept asking her if he could stay at her apartment or to visit his hotel room inVienna, 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.

Packer’s suit names as defendants Hastings, the Helsinki Commission and commission official Fred Turner. She says he retaliated against Packer after she made her harassment claims.

In a separate filing, Turner asked to be dismissed from the suit, contending 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’ response to the complaint was expected later Saturday. He has previously denied the allegations in public comments, calling them “ludicrous.”

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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