Cony­ers re­signs from Congress amid ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By COREY WIL­LIAMS and RICHARD LARDNER

DETROIT — Demo­crat Rep. John Cony­ers re­signed from Congress on Tues­day after a nearly 53-year ca­reer, be­com­ing the first Capi­tol Hill politi­cian to lose his job in the tor­rent of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions sweep­ing through the na­tion’s work­places.

The 88-year-old longest­serv­ing mem­ber of the House an­nounced what he re­ferred to as his “re­tire­ment” on Detroit talk ra­dio, while con­tin­u­ing to deny he groped or sex­u­ally ha­rassed women who worked for him.

“My legacy can’t be com­pro­mised or di­min­ished in any way by what we’re go­ing through now,” said the con­gress­man, who called into the ra­dio show from the hospi­tal where he was taken last week after com­plain­ing of light­head­ed­ness. “This, too, shall pass. My legacy will con­tinue through my chil­dren.”

He en­dorsed his son John Cony­ers III to suc­ceed him.

Cony­ers, who was first elected in 1964 and went on to be­come a found­ing mem­ber in 1971 of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, eas­ily won re-elec­tion last year to his 27th term in his heav­ily Demo­cratic district in and around Detroit.

But after be­ing pub­licly ac­cused by one woman after an­other in re­cent weeks, he faced grow­ing calls to re­sign from col­leagues in the House, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

As the furor grew, he stepped down as the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Ju­di­ciary Committee, and

the Ethics Committee be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing him.

Demo­cratic Rep. Jer­rold Nadler of New York said he was sad­dened by the res­ig­na­tion of his “friend and men­tor” but added: “There can be no tol­er­ance for be­hav­ior that sub­jects women to the kind of con­duct that has been al­leged.”

It will be up to Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Sny­der to set a date for a spe­cial elec­tion to pick some­one to serve out the re­main­ing year in Cony­ers’ two-year term. State Sen. Ian Cony­ers, a grand­son of Cony­ers’ brother, said he plans to run for the seat.

On Mon­day, yet an­other al­le­ga­tion was lodged against Cony­ers, when a woman who said she worked for him for more than a decade, Elisa Grubbs, said he slid his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thighs while she was sit­ting next to him in the front row of a church.

Grubbs also said she re­peat­edly saw Cony­ers touch­ing and stroking the legs and but­tocks of other fe­male staffers. Such be­hav­ior “was a reg­u­lar part of life while work­ing in the of­fice of Rep. Cony­ers,” she said.

Grubbs is the cousin of an­other ac­cuser, Mar­ion Brown, who reached a con­fi­den­tial, tax­payer­funded set­tle­ment of more than $27,000 over al­le­ga­tions Cony­ers sex­u­ally ha­rassed her. That set­tle­ment came to light in midNovem­ber, set­ting off the cas­cade of al­le­ga­tions against the con­gress­man.

At least two other women who worked for him have ac­cused him of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

“This is about much more than one con­gress­man,” Grubbs’ at­tor­ney, Lisa Bloom, said in an email after Cony­ers re­signed. “Sys­temic change is ur­gently needed so no other women have to en­dure the re­tal­i­a­tion, se­crecy and de­lays my client Mar­ion Brown and oth­ers ex­pe­ri­enced.”

While Hol­ly­wood and me­dia ti­tans ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct have been swiftly fired in re­cent weeks, in­clud­ing stu­dio boss Har­vey We­in­stein and TV news hosts Matt Lauer and Char­lie Rose, that has not been the case in Congress, where law- mak­ers have spo­ken of due process and clung to the ar­gu­ment that the vot­ers have the fi­nal say.

Demo­cratic Sen. Al Franken of Min­nesota and Demo­cratic Rep. Ruben Ki­huen of Ne­vada have re­buffed calls to step down.

Cony­ers said in a state­ment read Tues­day on the floor of the House that he was re­sign­ing “to pre­serve my legacy and good name.”

He also com­plained that he was not be­ing af­forded due process to de­fend him­self, and cited his health prob­lems as an­other fac­tor in his de­ci­sion. He added that he hopes his re­tire­ment will be viewed in the “larger per­spec­tive” of his more than 50 years as a law­maker.

Cony­ers reg­u­larly won elec­tions with more than 80 per­cent of the vote.

He co-spon­sored a 1972 res­o­lu­tion rec­om­mend­ing Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s im­peach­ment for his con­duct of the Viet­nam War and reg­u­larly in­tro­duced a bill from 1989 on­ward to study the harm caused by slav­ery and the pos­si­bil­ity of repa­ra­tions to the descen­dants of slaves.

After a 15-year strug­gle, Cony­ers suc­ceeded in es­tab­lish­ing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth­day as a fed­eral hol­i­day in 1986. He em­ployed civil rights leg­end Rosa Parks at his Detroit district of­fice for more than two decades.

Word of Cony­ers’ res­ig­na­tion was met with sad­ness among House Democrats. The uproar had di­vided mem­bers of his party, es­pe­cially those in the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus. Pelosi, too, had strug­gled, call­ing Cony­ers an “icon” be­fore press­ing days later for him to go.

The furor over Cony­ers un­folded as the sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against Franken and Alabama Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore sent mem­bers of both par­ties rush­ing to choose sides.

“I think that we lose our moral author­ity if we also don’t call out those we love who have done things that are bad,” said Rep. Pramila Jaya­pal, D-Wash. “I think we have to rec­og­nize and be able to hold the duel­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties that some­body can be a great man and have done great things for our coun­try and for civil rights but also have done ter­ri­ble things that re­quire ac­count­abil­ity.”

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