With pretty much any semblance of ethics and order already thrown out the window by the Trump administration—and Republicans in general—why wouldn’t a GOP lawmaker treat his office like his own personal fiefdom?
With one of the highest staff turnover rates in the House since taking office last year, freshman Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia’s 5th District is facing a barrage of criticism from former staffers who claim Garrett and his wife, Flanna, treated them like personal servants, making them do everything from picking up groceries to cleaning up dog shit.
Politico interviewed four former Garret staffers who described the atmosphere at work as “deeply dysfunctional.” One staffer said they had to pick up Flanna from the grocery store and unload groceries while the congressman was at a baseball game. Others had to drive three hours each way to pick up Garrett’s daughters and shuttle them to Washington. They also had to pick up clean clothes when Garrett stained his shirts or forgot to wear a belt.
Then there was the dog:
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.
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Since taking office in January 2017, the 46-year-old Army vet and House Freedom Caucus member has lost more than 60 percent of his staff, Politico reported. That includes his former chief of staff, Jimmy Keady. Those who stayed for as long as they did said they feared the “explosive tempers” of Garret and his wife, and they worried their careers would suffer if they spoke out.
Garrett’s seemingly unstable behavior was on display again this week, when he flip-flopped on whether or not he would run for re-election. On Wednesday, citing anonymous sources, Politico reported that Garrett was considering quitting Congress after Keady walked out Tuesday night.
But at a rambling news conference on Thursday, Garrett said he changed his mind after 24 hours of thinking and praying, and that “there is no way in heck that I’m not gonna be back here in 2019 as a member of the Congress representing the 5th District of Virginia, because too darn much is at stake,” Slate reported.
His Democratic opponent in November for the mostly conservative district is journalist and filmmaker Leslie Cockburn. According to media reports, Cockburn has raised about $300,000 more than Garrett in campaign funding so far.