Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Top Democrat steps aside during misconduct probe of husband

Top Democrat steps aside during misconduct probe of husband Top Democrat steps aside during misconduct probe of husband
Melinda Barton | 05 December, 2017, 00:02

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg is taking a temporary leave of absence as his husband faces allegations that he used his political connections to sexually harass men.

"With a very ambitious agenda for January, I don't see how we can accomplish any of this with this cloud hanging over his head", said L'Italien, who recently announced her candidacy for the 3rd congressional district seat.

Last week, an investigation by the Boston Globe revealed that four men were allegedly sexually assaulted and harassed by Bryon Hefner, 30, Rosenberg's husband. "I think it will be hard, but not impossible for them to do an independent investigation".

Only one senator, Andover Democrat Barbara L'Italien, had publicly called on Rosenberg to step aside "for the sake of the institution" as president until the investigation is completed.

Rosenberg said Friday that he was devastated by the allegations and that Hefner would soon begin in-patient treatment for alcoholism.

Because Hefner is not a state employee, the scope of the Senate's investigation is likely to be limited to whether his alleged actions affected the workings of the Senate.

Rosenberg, 68, has represented Amherst in the legislature since 1987.

"I want to ensure that the investigation is fully independent and credible, and that anyone who wishes to come forward will feel confident that there will be no retaliation", Rosenberg said in a statement to state senators.

Rosenberg, a state senator since 1991, has denied any inference that his husband influenced his policy decisions, and said he expects to be cleared of any wrongdoing. Three of the men told the Globe that Hefner grabbed their genitals and one said Hefner kissed him against his will. He was elected Senate President in 2015 - the first western MA politician to ascend to one of the two top leadership posts in the legislature in 40 years.

The allegations come amid a heightened focus on sexual misconduct claims against powerful figures in politics, media and entertainment in recent weeks.

The other story here is how this, or any of the alleged sexual harassment cases on Beacon Hill were allowed to happen. Rosenberg pledged at the time to put a "firewall" between his legislative leadership duties and his relationship with Hefner.