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Ex-aide testifies to ethics panel about Foley

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ex-congressional aide Kirk Fordham emerged from a House ethics committee hearing Thursday after more than four hours of sworn testimony in the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate contacts with teenage pages.

Fordham, once Foley's chief of staff, went before the ethics committee's investigative panel early Thursday afternoon and remained there until well after 5 p.m. Neither he nor his lawyer, Tim Heaphy, would discuss details of his testimony, but Heaphy said Fordham "has been forthcoming."

"He has been consistent in his accounts of these events when he's been with the FBI [and] when he's today met with the ethics committee," Heaphy said. "He's been truthful and cooperative and will continue to be throughout this and other investigations."

A source familiar with Fordham's account said the ex-aide would testify that he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office years ago about complaints regarding Foley's behavior around the teenage messengers who work on Capitol Hill -- including a report that the disgraced congressman showed up drunk at the congressional page dormitory.(Watch Bush stand by Hastert -- 1:10 Video)

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, asked House Clerk Karen Haas to investigate the dormitory allegation last week. Capitol police are looking through files for any record of the incident, a spokeswoman said.

Fordham's account disputed

But CNN was told by two sources familiar with Fordham's account and a third, independent source that Fordham maintains he arranged a meeting between Foley and Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, about that report and accounts of other behavior Fordham found troubling.

Palmer has denied Fordham's account, insisting in a statement last week that "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen." He has made no further public comment, but Hastert's office issued a brief statement after Fordham's testimony.

Fordham's version of the story contradicts statements by other members of the House leadership. Hastert's office said it first learned about non-explicit but "overly friendly" e-mails between Foley and a Louisiana teen who had served as a page earlier that year, and did not know about the sexually explicit instant messages that triggered Foley's resignation until September 29, when the congressman abruptly resigned.

In a statement following Fordham's testimony, Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said the speaker's office was confident that the ethics committee would "determine the real facts."

"The speaker has said that any person who is found guilty of improper conduct involving sexual contact or communication with a page should immediately resign, be fired, or be subjected to a vote of expulsion," Bonjean said.

Fordham resigned last week as chief of staff to Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-New York, after ABC News reported that he offered the network an exclusive on Foley's resignation if it agreed not to air transcripts of the most explicit messages. He said earlier Thursday that he was "pretty comfortable" with the testimony he was to deliver.

"I slept very well last night. I had a good night's sleep," he said. "I talked to my family, and I am going to tell the truth."

The committee also heard from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who sits on the House Page Board. When the scandal broke, Capito, R-West Virginia, said she was never consulted about the concerns raised about Foley in 2005.

"I want to see this investigation go forth quickly and reach a conclusion," she told reporters after about an hour and a half in the committee room Thursday morning.

Investigations under way

The House ethics committee and the Justice Department are investigating Foley's contacts with the boys and how the House GOP leadership handled the matter. Fordham sat down with FBI agents last week, and Jordan Edmund -- a former page who has reported receiving sexually explicit instant messages from Foley -- talked to federal agents Tuesday.

Edmund's lawyer, Stephen Jones, said the contact between Foley and his now 21-year-old client was minimal, and there was no sexual contact between the two.

A source familiar with the FBI probe, including statements from pages, suggests that investigators won't find any evidence that Foley had sex with underage pages. But the source said investigators will find that Foley consistently gave pages his private e-mail address as they would leave the program.

One page has said that Foley "cast a wide net" after pages left the program and continued communicating with pages he considered willing to develop a personal relationship.

Meanwhile, more lawmakers are planning to go before the ethics committee. House Majority Leader John Boehner "was invited to meet with them and looks forward to providing any information that might be helpful to their inquiry," Boehner spokesman Kevin Madden said. He did not disclose when Boehner would testify.

Page Board Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ilinois., is scheduled to testify Friday, his spokesman said. And Rep. Rodney Alexander, who brought Foley's e-mails to the Louisiana teen to House leaders' attention, is scheduled to testify next Wednesday, his chief of staff said.

CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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