The Office of Congressional Ethics released its report on allegations against Rep. Thomas Garrett Tuesday, including testimony from staffers past and present. The House Ethics Committee announced that it is continuing its own inquiry, but has not yet impaneled an investigative subcommittee.
The House Ethics panel began the inquiry into the outgoing Virginia Republican on June 8 and received a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics on Sept. 5 and extended the inquiry in late September.
Garrett faces allegations that he used his congressional aides to run personal errands for him and his wife on taxpayer-funded official time.
The OCE investigation included interviews with five former and two current staff members in Garrett's congressional office, although Garrett and his wife Flanna refused to cooperate with the OCE review. Garrett’s Chief of Staff Jimmy Keady also did not cooperate with the inquiry, according to the OCE report.
Keady was fired from Garrett’s office in May, related to “the pushback [Garrett] was getting on certain things . . . and the delineation of official versus unofficial.”
Garrett and his wife requested that staff members change the oil in their car and in at least one case, became angry when Keady instructed the staff to not run the errand, according to the OCE report. Interviews with staff showed instances of congressional staff helping Mrs. Garrett with trips to retail stores during normal work hours, including trips to Ikea with her baby and trips to Costco to purchase both official and personal items for the Garretts.
The OCE report found that “instances of personal errands requested by Representative Garrett or Flanna Garrett that may be considered ‘de minimus’ in nature.” Staff said that they were expected to deliver clothing items, cigarettes, keys, or cell phones to Garrett, although some of these may have been related to his official capacity.
Staff members also helped Garrett move into an apartment in November 2017, according to testimony from multiple staff to OCE. Another staffer was paid by Garrett to set up wifi in the apartment.
“The OCE also obtained a significant amount of testimony concerning the difficult work environment caused by the Garrett’s requests for personal errands and unofficial work,” according to the report.
Garrett and his wife denied the allegation that they used congressional staff to perform unofficial work and personal errands in a letter from the Garrett's attorney, Elliot S. Berke, to the House Ethics panel.
“Congressman Garrett does not recall ever receiving a single complaint from any congressional employee questioning whether requests were unofficial or personal in nature,” Berke said in the letter.
The report and testimony from OCE is part of the House Ethics inquiry into Garrett. An allegation that Garrett converted funds from his congressional campaign committee for personal use, was dismissed by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Garrett has also been plagued by questions about whether his alcohol use has affected his work in Congress. Garrett did not seek a second House term, announcing in May that he would be leaving Congress to confront his excessive drinking.
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