October 15, 2008 -- Current and former aides for Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL) say he was carrying on an affair with a county official from Florida at the same time he lobbied to help her county receive a $3.4 million federal grant.
One former top campaign aide says Mahoney acknowledged the woman had spent the week at his Washington apartment but shrugged off warnings such behavior could cause him political trouble. The aides said the woman was also seen with Mahoney at restaurants and at his Washington DC apartment late at night.
Based on interviews with a number of staffers, campaign workers and top Democratic officials in Congress, it appears Mahoney ignored warnings since last year about what now appears to have been multiple extra-marital relationships.
ABC News reported Monday that one former Congressional and campaign staff member, Patricia Allen was paid $121,000 by Mahoney to keep her from filing suit and going public about their alleged affair after she had been fired by Mahoney.
Now, it appears that Mahoney helped the Martin County official win a $3.4 million reimbursement for hurricane clean-up from FEMA -- appealing directly to Administrator R. David Paulison while doing little to aid other counties in his district with similar requests, the staffer say.
"Congressman Tim Mahoney was instrumental during the appeal process," reads a Martin County press release in September 2007 announcing the money for the county.
In a statement released by a spokesperson, Mahoney said he was "proud of the work" he has done "getting tens of millions of dollars in hurricane reimbursement funds for the eight counties he represents."
His statement did not address questions about his relationship with the county official. Multiple messages to the woman were not returned.
Don Donaldson, engineering director for Martin County, who was involved in getting the grant, said that he was unaware of any allegations of an affair between Mahoney and the other official.
He acknowledged that Mahoney had helped the county get to the "finish line sooner" but said he believed the county won out ultimately on the merits of its case.
"I didn't feel that we got any special treatment. We felt we were owed this." He added: "To me, the FEMA thing has nothing to do in the end with the Congressman."
When Did Mahoney Get Involved with the Grant?
The story of the grant begins in 2004 after the devastating hurricanes in Florida. Numerous counties spent significant amount of money cleaning up debris from private roads. But when they sought reimbursement from FEMA, they were routinely denied.
So the counties turned to their congressional delegates -- including Mahoney -- for help. Mahoney and other members made phone calls on the counties' behalf but Mahoney took interest special interest in one: Martin County, where the woman worked, the staffers say.
In early 2007 the woman and another Martin County official flew to Washington DC to meet with Mahoney about the grant, the staffers say.
Martin County had tried hard to get the reimbursement, but had been denied twice. After the meeting, Mahoney pledged to help, the staffers say.
Soon after Mahoney made phone calls and sent letters to FEMA as well as arranged for a special meeting with Paulison, where he was accompanied by the woman and another county official the staffers say.
Following the meeting, Mahoney wrote Paulison a thank you letter. "I greatly appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this matter," he wrote.
The results were not immediate. Mahoney had to meet with Paulison a second time, according to a press release on his website.
But by September, FEMA finally agreed to pay Martin County the $3.4 million, according to the county press release. A spokesperson for FEMA said in a statement that "after closer examination of the documentation the county submitted" they determined that the city had met the legal standard for reimbursement.
"I would like to commend our congressmen and staff for all their tremendous efforts to secure these funds," said Donaldson, in the press release, noting that Rep. Alcee Hastings and Sen. Mel Martinez had also supported the county efforts.