The Washington Times - January 11, 2012, 04:06PM

The House Ethics Committee has extended its review of sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, opting not to launch a full-scale investigation for now.

A staffer at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe leveled the allegations against Mr. Hastings, who formerly headed the congressional agency. The aide, Winsome Packer, accused Mr. Hastings of repeatedly making improper comments and touching her inappropriately. She is being represented by the conservative group Judicial Watch and has filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Hastings, who hired her for the commission job.

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Just because the committee has voted to extend the review of the matter, “does not itself indicate that a violation has occurred,” the panel’s chairman and ranking members, Reps. Jo Bonner, an Alabama Republican, and Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

The committee did not give itself a deadline to come up with a decision in the case.

The House Ethics Committee is acting on recommendations made by the Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body tasked with looking into allegations against members and furthering their findings on to the full ethics panel for further review.

After interviewing Ms. Winsome, identified as “Witness 1” in its report, as well as Mr. Hastings, the OCE found “probable cause” for the allegations and recommended that the Ethics Committee look into the matter.

Because several witnesses would not cooperate with its investigation, the OCE recommended that the ethics panel subpoena them, a power the office lacks.

The Ethics Committee also released a report of the OCE’s findings. In it, Ms. Packer details multiple accounts of Mr. Hastings behaving improperly. Mr. Hastings refutes most of the accusations while corroborating some more innocuous details.