|Tom Garrett (R-Va) - treats staff like servants.|
If one wants an example of the self-centered arrogance of elected officials, look no farther than Virginia 5th District Congressman, Tom Garrett. Not surprisingly, Garrett is a Republican. A major story in Politico reports on how Garrett and his wife treated Garrett's congressional staffers as virtual servants during business hours when they should have been performing governmental duties. While mostly rural, Garrett's district - the largest territorially in Virginia - includes the cities of Charlottesville and Danville. It goes without saying that sane voters would not reelect someone like Garrett, but never underestimate the idiocy of Virginia's rural Republican voters. Here are highlights from Politico:
Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett and his wife turned the congressman’s staff into personal servants, multiple former employees to the freshman Republican told POLITICO — assigning them tasks from grocery shopping to fetching the congressman’s clothes to caring for their pet dog, all during work hours.
POLITICO has spoken with four former staffers who detailed a deeply dysfunctional office in which the congressman and his wife, Flanna, often demanded that staff run personal errands outside their typical congressional duties. The couple called on staff to pick up groceries, chauffeur Garrett’s daughters to and from his Virginia district, and fetch clothes that the congressman forgot at his Washington apartment. They were even expected to watch and clean up after Sophie, their Jack Russell-Pomeranian mix, the aides said.
The staffers said they feared that if they refused Garrett‘s or his wife’s orders — both were known for explosive tempers — they would struggle to advance in their careers. It wasn't just full-time staff: many of the allegedly inappropriate requests were made of interns, the former aides said.
“I didn’t know who I was working for: Was I working for him? Was I working for her?” said one of those staffers who, like others interviewed for this story, asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “We became their gofers.”
The behind-the-scenes turmoil boiled over Tuesday evening, when Garrett’s chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, abruptly parted ways with the congressman. His exit, multiple sources say, came amid a dispute with Garrett over the couple’s alleged misuse of official resources. Multiple sources raised the issue with the congressman, and senior staffers tried to rectify the situation repeatedly.
On Wednesday, Garrett, a 46-year-old Army veteran and former state senator, began telling associates that he was considering not running for reelection — stunning Republicans in Virginia and Washington. But a day later, he reversed course, saying during a rambling 30-minute news conference that he would in fact seek another term.
Aides also grew acquainted with the couple’s dog, who often came to the office with the Garretts. Staffers were expected to watch the dog during office hours, and one aide did so over a weekend. Several aides said the couple would sometimes seem to forget the dog was in the office. When that happened, at the end of the day, aides were responsible for transporting it back to Garrett’s Washington apartment. One source said the dog occasionally defecated on the floor and aides had to clean up the mess.
Aides also served as drivers for the congressman’s older daughters from a previous marriage, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
Garrett’s conduct could raise ethics concerns. The House Ethics manual prohibits lawmakers from using staff for anything other than official congressional duties. Members are explicitly barred from instructing aides to do personal errands in the manual, which also recounts situations in which staff were wrongly told to fetch personal mail, clean a member’s home and pay a member’s bills.
Staffer say the atmosphere in the office was toxic, however, and the demands were far outside what should reasonably be expected of congressional aides. Flanna would reach out to aides at all hours of the night, according to two former staffers. One person recalled an incident in which Flanna lashed out at a staffer for not picking up the congressman from his apartment after he overslept.
Obviously, Garrett must be using Der Trumpenfuhrer as his role model.Since taking office in January 2017, Garrett has had among the highest levels of turnover in the House, according to records compiled by legislative data company LegiStorm. More than 60 percent of his staff left in 2017, compared with the House’s typical 25 percent turnover rate that year, making the office fourth out of more than 400 legislative shops.