Mass. Se­nate Pres­i­dent steps aside dur­ing hus­band’s mis­con­duct probe

Woonsocket Call - - Obituaries / Region -

BOS­TON (AP) — The pres­i­dent of Massachusetts' state Se­nate changed course Mon­day and agreed to re­lin­quish his lead­er­ship re­spon­si­bil­i­ties dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions in­volv­ing his hus­band.

Pres­i­dent Stan Rosenberg, a Demo­crat, had orig­i­nally said he would re­cuse him­self only from any mat­ters re­lated to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion or the al­le­ga­tions against Bryon Hefner.

Rosenberg in­formed sen­a­tors just prior to a closed-door Demo­cratic cau­cus that he would step aside tem­po­rar­ily, though he would re­main in the Se­nate.

"I be­lieve tak­ing a leave of ab­sence from the Se­nate Pres­i­dency dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is in the best in­ter­est of the Se­nate," Rosenberg said in a state­ment. "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, who has not been ac­cused of wrong­do­ing, ex­pressed shock over the al­le­ga­tions re­ported last week by The Bos­ton Globe. The Demo­crat main­tained that his hus­band had no in­flu­ence over his pol­icy de­ci­sions or ac­tions by the Se­nate.

Sev­eral men told the Globe that Hefner sex­u­ally as­saulted or ha­rassed them, in­clud­ing three men who said Hefner grabbed their gen­i­tals. The men, who were not named by the Globe, said they did not re­port the al­leged in­ci­dents partly be­cause they did not want to alien­ate the pow­er­ful Se­nate leader.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Maura Healey and Suf­folk County District At­tor­ney Daniel Con­ley, both Democrats, said Mon­day they are pre­pared to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and said any­one with in­for­ma­tion should feel free to con­tact ei­ther of their of­fices.

The two said in a writ­ten state­ment Mon­day that they are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing ev­ery sur­vivor of sex­ual as­sault "a safe, re­spect­ful, vic­tim-cen­tered en­vi­ron­ment."

Most Demo­cratic sen­a­tors were grim­faced and re­fused com­ment as they en­tered the cau­cus, which ran well into the af­ter­noon, with re­porters staked out­side the room.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Har­ri­ette Chan­dler, the No. 2 Demo­crat in the Se­nate, emerged briefly in the late af­ter­noon to tell re­porters that a "very in­tense and very open" dis­cus­sion was tak­ing place be­hind closed doors but she did not di­vulge de­tails.

Law­mak­ers were ex­pected to vote later Mon­day on a plan to ap­point an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor whose fo­cus likely would be on whether Rosenberg knew about Hefner's al­leged be­hav­ior, or if Hefner had any clout when it came to mat­ters be­fore the cham­ber.

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

L'Ital­ien told re­porters she did not see how al­leged vic­tims could come for­ward dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion if Rosenberg was still pre­sid­ing over the Se­nate. She also said it would be dif­fi­cult for the Se­nate to con­duct nor­mal busi­ness un­der the cir­cum­stances.

An­other Demo­crat, Sen. Michael Bar­rett of Con­cord, said it was un­fair to ask Rosenberg to step aside over al­le­ga­tions against his spouse.

Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren also weighed in Mon­day telling re­porters "the charges against the Se­nate pres­i­dent's hus­band are dis­gust­ing and the peo­ple who have leveled these charges have a right to be heard and to be re­spected and pro­tected."

The sce­nario un­fold­ing on Mon­day was with­out mod­ern prece­dent in the Se­nate, leav­ing many ques­tions as to who would pre­side over the Se­nate and how busi­ness would op­er­ate dur­ing Rosenberg's leave from the pres­i­dency.

Rosenberg said Fri­day that Hefner would soon en­ter treat­ment for al­co­hol de­pen­dency.

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