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Retiring Dem facing complaint by male staffer

The House ethics panel is reviewing a complaint against retiring New York Rep. Eric Massa by a male staffer who reportedly felt uncomfortable in a situation with Massa that had sexual overtones.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The House ethics panel is reviewing a complaint against retiring New York Rep. Eric Massa by a male staffer who reportedly felt uncomfortable in a situation with Massa that had sexual overtones.

A House aide characterized the complaint on Thursday to The Associated Press. The aide did not elaborate on the allegation against Massa, who said Wednesday he will not seek a second term after a recurrence of cancer last year. The aide was not authorized to discuss the allegation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday said he was told the week of Feb. 8 by a staff member in Massa's office about allegations of misconduct. Hoyer directed Massa to report the allegations to the House Ethics Committee within 48 hours. Hoyer said he got confirmation within 48 hours that the Ethics Committee had received the report and would review the allegations.

Massa's office did not immediately respond to messages Thursday seeking comment.

Massa, who is married, was stricken with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1996. He was elected in 2008, defeating Republican Rep. Randy Kuhl.

The 29th district in the southwestern corner of New York has been dominated by Republicans since the party's founding in 1854. It's a largely agricultural district the size of Connecticut.

FILE - This Tuesday Oct. 14, 2008 picture shows Eric Massa, Democratic candidate for New York's 29th Congressional District in Rochester, N.Y. On Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Rep. Eric Massa, a freshman Democrat from New York, said that he will not seek a second term after a recurrence of cancer late last year, dismissing blog reports that he had harassed a staffer. He was elected in 2008. (AP Photo/David Duprey)David Duprey / AP

Citing his cancer, the 50-year-old Massa said Wednesday he would retire at the end of his term. During a conference phone call with reporters, Massa dismissed a Politico story that cited unidentified House aides in reporting that the congressman had been accused of harassing a staffer.

"There are blogs who are saying I am leaving because there were charges of harassment against my staff," Massa said during the Wednesday call. "Do I or have I ever used salty language when I am angry, especially in the privacy of my inner office or even at home? Yes, I have and I have apologized to those where it's appropriate.

"But those kinds of articles, unsubstantiated without fact or backing, are a symptom of what's wrong with this city," he said, "and it's why so many have looked at the absolute gridlock in Washington, the intense partisanship without rational thought and decided, like I, I do not have the life energy to fight all the battles all the time."