Maybe his South Florida constituency long ago grew numb to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings' serial unscrupulousness. Certainly nobody kicked up much of a fuss when it was discovered Wednesday the Democratic congressman, serving in the shadow of his own checkered past, promoted a convicted money launderer in his Palm Beach County office to full-time "staff assistant."
According to the Washington Free Beacon and Legistorm filings, Dona Nichols Jones has been on Hastings' payroll as a $40,000-a-year part-time aide and community liaison since April 2014. How much of a salary increase comes with the promotion is not yet certain.
You may not be familiar with Dona Nichols Jones. Jones is married to one-time Philadelphia lawyer Mikel Jones, who worked for Hastings from 1993 to 2011 as a district administrator. Dona and Mikel operated as a slick team, eventually convicted of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud in 2011 after they had used hundreds of thousands of dollars from a business loan for the likes of paying off credit card debts and Philadelphia 76ers tickets.
It's a fascinating story, and the Free Beacon has followed the story over the years. The couple also laundered $160,000 through Dona and her daughter's bank account to replenish money that had been taken from Mikel's law firm trust account. From 2008 to 2009, the Joneses had siphoned $350,000 worth of funds by using fraudulent invoices.
Mikel Jones was convicted on 30 counts of fraud and fired from Hastings' office. Dona Nichols Jones was convicted on conspiracy, money laundering, and 14 counts of wire fraud and ultimately paid $400,000 in restitution while serving one day in prison. Hastings first added Dona to his office's roster three years later.
Hastings' questionable staff decisions don't stop there.
He continues to pay his longtime girlfriend, Patricia Williams, the maximum congressional salary of $168,411. In fact, he has paid her nearly $2.4 million in salary since 2000, the first year salary figures are publicly available from Legistorm. She makes more than Hastings' chief of staff.
Williams collected $21,250 for a partial year of work as a staff assistant in 2000, and was paid $98,000 in 2001. In 2002, her salary shot up to $121,307.
Williams' salary gradually increased to $125,975 by 2005. She had pulled in $623,003 during her time as a staff assistant from 2000 to 2005 .
Williams took over as deputy district director in Hastings' Broward County office in 2006, a move that coincided with another generous salary bump to $143,314. Williams continued to receive yearly salary increases until her salary peaked at the maximum.
On top of that, Hastings also employs Williams' daughter as a staff assistant in his Broward County office.
Williams, who served as co-counsel during Hastings' impeachment trial as a federal judge in the 1980s, has worked out of the congressman's office since 1993. She started working for Hastings as a staff assistant and has since been promoted to deputy district director in his Broward office.
Hastings, incidentally, was acquitted in 1983, but a later probe found he had tampered with evidence, conspired to accept bribes, and committed perjury. Hastings was removed from the bench in 1989 by the U.S. Senate. That made him the first federal judge to be charged with a crime while sitting on the federal bench.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a right-leaning watchdog group based in D.C., filed an ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics over the payments. The group additionally added Hastings to their top five worst ethics violators of 2017.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith