The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Investigators find Rep. Garrett had staff perform personal errands

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) (U.S. House Office of Photography)

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) and his wife asked congressional staff to perform extensive personal errands, including changing the oil in their car and walking their dog, possibly in violation of House rules and standards of conduct, a report issued Tuesday by the Office of Congressional Ethics found.

The report comes weeks before the one-term congressman is set to leave Congress.

In May, he announced that he is an alcoholic and would not seek reelection, as accusations swirled around him that he ran a chaotic workplace.

The report found insufficient evidence for the claim that Garrett paid an employee out of his campaign coffers to do personal errands.

In a lengthy response, Garrett, through his attorney, said the OCE report “is riddled with falsities and innuendo” and noted “profound concerns about how the OCE conducted its investigation into this matter.”

The OCE recommends that the House Ethics Committee investigate further and subpoena Garrett and his wife, Flanna Garrett; two former chiefs of staff and two former staffers; and a former intern.

But the House Ethics Committee, made up of Garrett’s House colleagues, has jurisdiction over sitting members only and its investigation is unlikely to come to a conclusion before Garrett leaves office.

The 19-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics provides a window into the culture of Garrett’s congressional office and includes text messages between his staffers.

On at least two occasions, Garrett or his wife asked a staff member to change the oil in the congressman’s car. A staffer went to Ikea and Costco with his wife, Flanna Garrett, during the workday.

Staffers also frequently fed and walked the congressman’s dog, which was often present in the congressional office, and cared for the dog on their personal time.

Garrett fired his chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, in May 2018 in part for “the pushback he was getting on certain things . . . and the delineation of official versus unofficial,” an unnamed staffer told the OCE.

In one exchange with the unnamed staff member, Keady wrote: “Next time someone complains about doing things not in their job description, remind me to tell them the story where I went to three different stores before 9 to find tom skim milk lol,” the report says.

Matt Missen, Garrett’s former spokesman, told the OCE that he “lied to the press” when he denied staff members did personal errands for the congressman and his wife.