Eric Massa Now Facing Harassment Complaint from Former Aide

April 14th, 2010 by

The sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa are far more serious than previously known, new reports reveal.

The New York Democrat resigned last month in the wake of a House ethics inquiry into charges that he behaved inappropriately with male staffers. The House ethics committee ended its investigation after Massa resigned.

Now, however, a former male aide to Massa has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the former representative, according to reports. The aide claims Massa regularly groped him, propositioned him and made lewd remarks to him and other staffers.

“There was grabbing people in private areas,” said Debra Katz, the staffer’s attorney, the Associated Press reports. “The congressman routinely made gestures implying that he wanted oral sex, and made crude propositions requesting oral sex from his employees.”

The Washington Post broke the story, reporting that staffers had complained about sexual harassment to the senior staff in Massa’s office as early as three months into the freshman Democrat’s term.

“Both the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff attempted to rein in the Congressman, but their efforts were ineffectual and by the fall of 2009, Congressman Massa’s behavior spiraled out of control,” Katz told the Post. “This left my client and other gay men in the office even more vulnerable to Representative Massa’s predatory behavior.”

Massa took responsibility for using inappropriate language around his staffers when he resigned, and in a television interview, he said he had groped staffers but in a non-sexual way. He almost immediately retracted that statement in a following television interview.

Republicans attempted to open an investigation into what House Democratic leadership knew about the complaints against Massa before the formal ethics investigation began.

The Post reports that Massa’s chief of staff, Joe Racalto, and the deputy chief of staff, Ron Hikel, tried to manage the situation themselves for a year before reporting it to congressional leaders. Hikel reportedly decided to call House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office after an incident in upstate New York on Feb. 2 at a funeral reception for a Marine killed in Afghanistan. Massa allegedly solicited sex from a bartender at the funeral. The accusation surfaced as an anonymous comment on a local blog, and the bartender called Massa’s office.

In the wake of these reports, House Minority Leader John Boehner is renewing his call for the House ethics committee to investigate what exactly congressional leaders knew, and when. — “It is now readily apparent that Congressman Massa’s pattern of troubling behavior continued long after Democrats first became aware of his conduct,” Boehner said in a statement. “Speaker Pelosi’s staff has acknowledged they knew about problems in Mr. Massa’s office back in the fall of 2009. What action, if any, did the Speaker and the Democratic leadership take to protect Rep. Massa’s subordinates from harassment and abuse?”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office had heard concerns about Massa as far back as October, 2009, but her office said the concerns raised did not include sexual harassment — only charges that Massa had hired too many staff members, was living with several of them and used foul language around them.

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