Ethics panel probing misconduct claim against NY Republican

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. Reed, a Republican from western New York who was accused in March 2021 of rubbing a female lobbyists back and unhooking her bra without her consent in 2017, apologized to the woman on Sunday, March 21, 2021, and announced that he will not run for reelection in 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2020 Jacquelyn Martin. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics committee announced Friday that it is investigating sexual misconduct allegations involving Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York, who had announced he would not be seeking re-election after the allegations first surfaced last month.

Reed was accused of rubbing a female lobbyist’s back and unhooking her bra without her consent at a networking event in a Minneapolis pub in 2017. The lobbyist, Nicolette Davis, told The Washington Post that Reed appeared to be drunk when he touched her back and leg as the two were seated next to each other during a networking trip.

Reed apologized to Davis shortly after the story became public and said in a statement that the incident occurred “at a time in my life in which I was struggling.” He said he entered treatment that year and realized he was “powerless over alcohol.”

Reed apologized to his wife and children, and to Davis, and said he planned “to dedicate my time and attention to making amends for my past actions.”

Reed, elected to Congress in 2010, had been among the members of Congress calling for the resignation of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations. In late February, Reed said he was seriously considering running for governor against Cuomo.

In his statement last month in response to the allegations, Reed said he had pledged when running for Congress that he would only serve up to 12 years and would therefore not seek reelection.

Reed is a former mayor of Corning, N.Y. In Congress, he had served as co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, whose Republican and Democratic members meet weekly on issues. He has stepped down from that role, but the group said he would remain an active member and be part of a multi-month transition.

In response to the #MeToo movement, Reed said sexual harassment training was a basic requirement in his office, and that he had taken it. He also backed bipartisan legislation in 2018 requiring lawmakers to be personally liable for settlements resulting from harassment.

Reed's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The Ethics Committee said in a press release that it was aware of the public allegations of sexual misconduct against Reed and would gather additional information to determine whether he engaged in conduct that is in violation of House rules or the law. The committee said the fact that it was investigating the allegations does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred.