Hastings under scrutiny after reports of payout over sexual harassment

South Florida congressman Alcee Hastings is under renewed scrutiny after reports that the government paid more than $200,000 to a woman who says Hastings sexually harassed her.

“The fact that those funds were paid out of the Treasury has raised a lot of questions,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo said Sunday on Local 10’s “This Week in South Florida.” 

The Miami Republican said that he was surprised at the payout and that it hasn’t been disclosed until now.

“He needs to come out and explain what happened and why and take appropriate action,” Curbelo said.

Hastings declined to be interviewed, but he released a written statement Monday. 

“This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made,” the statement read. “I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid.”

Winsome Packer said Hastings made unwanted sexual advances from 2008 to 2010 while she worked for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, a U.S. agency also known as the Helsinki Commission. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the commission. 

In 2010, Packer went public with the accusations, which Hastings denied. A conservative legal group sued Hastings and the commission on Packer’s behalf in 2011. A year later, a court ruling dropped Hasting from the suit, but the case against the commission continued. 

On Friday, Roll Call published a story, citing documents that showed the commission settled the lawsuit with Packer in 2014 for $220,000.

The news comes as lawmakers, media figures and other prominent men accused of sexual harassment are facing intense pressure to step down from their positions of power. 

Last week, Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, and Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Meanwhile,  the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican. Records show he used taxpayer funds to pay $84,000 to a former aide in 2014 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

On Monday, several women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment held a press conference and called on Congress to investigate. The White House called the accusations “false claims.”

In the initial lawsuit, Packer accused Hastings of “unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching.” 

She said Hastings hugged her, pressed his body against her body and pressed his face against her face. 

At one point Packer said Hastings asked her, “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”

A separate House Ethics Committee investigation into Packer’s allegations was dismissed in 2014 because of lack of evidence, but the panel called Hastings’ behavior “less than professional.”

“Despite the fact that the conduct in this case does not rise to the level of actionable violations of the rules, the Committee does not want to leave the impression that Representative Hastings’ behavior was at all times appropriate,” the committee wrote in a report.

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Endangered Florida panther kitten hit, killed by vehicle

An endangered Florida panther kitten has been struck and killed by a vehicle.

It’s the 24th fatal collision this year, out of 29 total panther deaths.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Monday that the remains of the male, 3-month-old panther were collected Saturday near a Naples subdivision.

Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeastern United States, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild.

Wildlife officials reported 42 panther deaths in 2016, including 34 fatal vehicle collisions in southwest Florida. That matched the 2015 record for panther deaths.

Seven panther litters with a total of 19 kittens have been documented this year.

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Endangered Florida panther kitten hit, killed by vehicle

An endangered Florida panther kitten has been struck and killed by a vehicle.

It’s the 24th fatal collision this year, out of 29 total panther deaths.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Monday that the remains of the male, 3-month-old panther were collected Saturday near a Naples subdivision.

Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeastern United States, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild.

Wildlife officials reported 42 panther deaths in 2016, including 34 fatal vehicle collisions in southwest Florida. That matched the 2015 record for panther deaths.

Seven panther litters with a total of 19 kittens have been documented this year.

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Hastings under scrutiny after reports of payout over sexual harassment

South Florida congressman Alcee Hastings is under renewed scrutiny after reports that the government paid more than $200,000 to a woman who says Hastings sexually harassed her.

“The fact that those funds were paid out of the Treasury has raised a lot of questions,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo said Sunday on Local 10’s “This Week in South Florida.” 

The Miami Republican said that he was surprised at the payout and that it hasn’t been disclosed until now.

“He needs to come out and explain what happened and why and take appropriate action,” Curbelo said.

Hastings declined to be interviewed, but he released a written statement Monday. 

“This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made,” the statement read. “I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid.”

Winsome Packer said Hastings made unwanted sexual advances from 2008 to 2010 while she worked for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, a U.S. agency also known as the Helsinki Commission. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the commission. 

In 2010, Packer went public with the accusations, which Hastings denied. A conservative legal group sued Hastings and the commission on Packer’s behalf in 2011. A year later, a court ruling dropped Hasting from the suit, but the case against the commission continued. 

On Friday, Roll Call published a story, citing documents that showed the commission settled the lawsuit with Packer in 2014 for $220,000.

The news comes as lawmakers, media figures and other prominent men accused of sexual harassment are facing intense pressure to step down from their positions of power. 

Last week, Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, and Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Meanwhile,  the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican. Records show he used taxpayer funds to pay $84,000 to a former aide in 2014 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

On Monday, several women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment held a press conference and called on Congress to investigate. The White House called the accusations “false claims.”

In the initial lawsuit, Packer accused Hastings of “unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching.” 

She said Hastings hugged her, pressed his body against her body and pressed his face against her face. 

At one point Packer said Hastings asked her, “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”

A separate House Ethics Committee investigation into Packer’s allegations was dismissed in 2014 because of lack of evidence, but the panel called Hastings’ behavior “less than professional.”

“Despite the fact that the conduct in this case does not rise to the level of actionable violations of the rules, the Committee does not want to leave the impression that Representative Hastings’ behavior was at all times appropriate,” the committee wrote in a report.

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Boy, 4, reads 100 books in one day

Caleb Green loves to read, so he decided he was going to read 100 books in one day. After every 10 books, he was going to celebrate with a dance.

His parents streamed his feat on Facebook Live. Caleb’s father, Sylus Green, said at first he had a gut reaction to talk him down, but Caleb persisted and taught his dad an important lesson.  

“I learned to just dream bigger and I am going to set unrealistic goals for myself this coming year,” the proud father told Chicago’s ABC affiliate 7 Eyewitness News. “And I’m going to be inspired by Caleb to not quit on him and just push through it.”

 

 

 

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Woman fatally shot by stray bullet while driving in Miami Gardens

A woman was fatally shot by a stray bullet over the weekend while driving in Miami Gardens, authorities said.

The shooting was reported about 7:50 p.m. Saturday in the area of Northwest 183rd Street and 24th Avenue, near the Miami-Dade County Public Library.

Police said Alicia Roundtree, 43, who was a mother of three, was driving alone in her car west on 183rd Street when she was struck by the stray bullet.

She was airlifted to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, where she died.

No arrests have been made.

Some on social media claimed that there have been multiple incidents of people shooting at vehicles in the area, but Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt said on Twitter that there are “no facts to indicate that there is a sniper between 22 and 27 Avenues.” 

Authorities said there have been other shootings where vehicles have been struck by bullets, but police said those shootings were “road rage incidents or a result of assaults not involving these vehicles.”

“I want to reassure you that the Miami Gardens Police Department is vigilantly working to keep the community safe and investigate the homicide which recently occurred,” Noel-Pratt said. 

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Miami Gardens police Detective H. Schneider at 305-474-1710 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. A reward of up to $3,000 is offered for information that leads to an arrest.

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