WASHINGTON (AP) - The House Ethics Committee announced Monday it was launching a formal investigation of a Florida congressman who pleaded guilty last month to cocaine possession.
Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Conaway and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez said in a joint statement the committee had voted unanimously to open an investigation into Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel, a freshman Republican who represents parts of Lee and Collier counties, including Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples.
Launching a formal investigation means the Ethics Committee can look deeper into Radel's background and could decide to take action against him, including an official reprimand or expulsion.
Radel pleaded guilty in District of Columbia Superior Court last month to a misdemeanor charge of possession cocaine after admitted he agreed to buy 3.5 grams of cocaine for $250 in a Washington neighborhood on Oct. 29 from what turned out to be an undercover federal agent.
A spokesman said Radel expected an ethics investigation. He was sentenced to a year probation in the criminal case.
"Congressman Radel has acknowledged and accepted full responsibility for his actions and is committed to continuing and completing a treatment program that will help him overcome his personal problems," his office said in a statement it distributed. "He expected that the House Ethics Committee would look into the matter and intends to appropriately address the investigation initiated by the House Ethics Committee."
Republican Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania will serve as chairman of the investigative committee. New York Rep. Yvette Clark will be the panel's senior Democrat. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Janice Hahn, D-Calif., will also serve on the committee.
Radel is currently on leave from Congress and is being treated at a drug rehabilitation center in Naples. He said he had struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse for years.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not called for Radel to step down. In November, Boehner's office said that beyond the courts, "this is between Rep. Radel, his family and his constituents."