WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation Wednesday of Rep. Bob Filner's run-in with a baggage worker at Dulles International Airport last month. The incident resulted in misdemeanor assault and battery charges against the congressman.
The committee released a short statement saying that it voted Tuesday to form a bipartisan, four-member investigative subcommittee to look into the incident. Action by the subcommittee will be deferred until the resolution of criminal proceedings against Filner, D-Calif., the committee said.
Filner is due in Loudoun County, Va., General District Court on Oct. 2 for a hearing about the incident.
According to a sworn complaint by United Airlines baggage worker Joanne Kay Kunkel, Filner stormed into the airline's baggage office Aug. 19, barging past other customers and demanding to be waited on. He was screaming and repeatedly pushed on Kunkel's arms when she tried to stop him from entering an employees-only area. He backed off only when he heard another employee on the phone with airport police, the complaint said.
Filner, an eight-term incumbent who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, has declined interview requests and has not offered his own account of what happened.
"Based on a statement by a United Airlines baggage employee, the General District Court for Loudon County, Virginia issued a summons to which I must respond," the congressman said in a statement Wednesday evening.
"This came about because I was frustrated by an unexplained airline delay. While I take issue with some of the erroneous details that have been reported in the press, I do regret that things turned out the way they did.
"I respect the Ethics Committee's decision to wait until this matter is resolved in Virginia before proceeding," Filner said in the statement.
Filner did not say what erroneous details had been reported and his spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking additional comment.
Wednesday's announcement by the House Ethics Committee came on its deadline under new House rules that require the panel to investigate any lawmaker charged with a crime, or report to the House on why it's decided not to. The determination must be made within 30 days — which fell on Wednesday in Filner's case.
The investigative subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, and the top Republican will be J. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C. The two other members will be Reps. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.