Active snorkeler and tickling enthusiast Eric Massa, the disgraced now-former Democratic congressman from New York, was having his HR file filled with complaints by male staffers just three months into his tenure. About how he was groping them sexually and found excuses to take overnight trips with them.
Well, it wasn’t so much his HR file; but younger male aids were complaining to their supervisors, relays WaPo.
This account, drawn from more than two dozen interviews and internal documents, shows that aides were accusing the 50-year-old married lawmaker of far more egregious behavior than previously known. Beginning in March 2009 and over the next several months, male staffers complained that their boss had touched them in a sexual manner, came up with reasons to have staffers travel alone with him on overnight trips, and expressed a desire to have sex with the men in the office. But it wasn’t until after a year of staff complaints — when allegations about Massa’s behavior threatened to become a public embarrassment — that supervisors alerted congressional leaders to the problem. That led House leadership to demand the matter be referred to the ethics committee. Massa resigned a few weeks later when the media reported he was the subject of a harassment probe. He declined to comment for this story.
On Tuesday, in response to an earlier version of this article, House Minority Leader John Boehner called on the ethics committee to delve deeply into how such allegations could continue for a year with no relief for staff. “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. “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?”
My goodness. It’s sounding more and more like Larry Craig’s lilttle fiasco.
In one instance, a staffer said he alerted Joe Racalto, Massa’s chief of staff, in March 2009 that Massa tried to fondle a young colleague in a hotel room during the 2008 campaign. Racalto told staffers he believed their complaints, because he had heard similar stories, according to staffers. Two sources said that Racalto told staffers he himself had been a victim of Massa’s advances.
In a statement through his lawyer, Racalto declined to answer questions about whether he was harassed by Massa, or had filed a harassment complaint against the lawmaker. He did answer several other questions in comments relayed by his lawyer. He disputed claims that he mishandled the situation but said he had difficulty controlling his boss and lacked a manual to guide him. He said he confronted Massa about allegations of improper advances, but the lawmaker denied doing anything improper.
Racalto said he tried in fall 2009 to block the lawmaker from being alone with young male staffers, including demanding that he move out of a townhouse Massa shared with staff. He confirmed that he pulled Massa out of a Dupont Circle bar in December when he could not get Massa to stop making inappropriate comments to a 21-year-old intern and another male staffer.