Rosenberg wants Senate presidency back, separates from spouse

  • Bryon Hefner, husband of state Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • AP Photo AP Photo

Friday, January 12, 2018

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg said Thursday he’d like to return to the Senate presidency, though he has not discussed doing so with his colleagues.

The Amherst Democrat also confirmed news reports that he has separated from his spouse, Bryon Hefner, amid an ongoing investigation into whether Rosenberg or his staff violated Senate rules in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct against Hefner. Rosenberg has stepped down from his powerful post as Senate president during a pending ethics investigation.

Rosenberg made the announcement about wanting to return to the presidency Thursday afternoon after the Boston Globe reported that there was support in the Senate for him to reclaim his seat if two conditions are met. First, an internal Senate investigation must clear Rosenberg of any knowledge of the sexual misconduct allegedly committed by Hefner. And second, Rosenberg must separate himself from Hefner to the extent that the Senate could not be embarrassed by the latter’s actions in the future.

“I am focused on representing my district, which is the first responsibility of all legislators,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “As we begin formal session again, I look forward to working with my colleagues on shared leadership and a robust agenda. I have not discussed returning to the Senate Presidency with my colleagues, but obviously I would want to return. I have been deeply touched by all the support I have received from the people of my district, and from my colleagues.”

According to the Globe report, Rosenberg already has separated from Hefner, who is undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse. Rosenberg’s office confirmed Thursday that he has separated from his husband, clarifying that the two are not living together.

In an interview with reporters in Boston, Rosenberg declined to offer details about the separation.

“That’s personal and he is getting treatment for alcohol that he needs and that’s about all that can be said about that,” he said.

Worcester Democratic Sen. Harriette Chandler was elected to fill the post of president during the interim.

Rosenberg said that fellow senators have been counseled that they should minimize contact with him out of an abundance of caution so that there could not be claim of interference during the investigation.

Reiterating statements made to the Globe, Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, said he is “confident that the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation now underway will be thorough and impartial.”

He continued, “It is critical that anyone with relevant information feel safe coming forward knowing that their confidentially will be protected. If the investigation concludes that there was no misconduct on the part of Sen. Rosenberg, then I believe that there is strong support in the Democratic caucus to re-elect him as Senate president.”

Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, also spoke in support of Rosenberg.

“I think there is a very strong inclination to sidestep a messy leadership succession fight if the senators can possibly do so,” Barrett said. “You’ve got the central consideration that Stan is personally quite popular. We like the reforms he has brought to his job. We think the change is real and so you add his personal popularity to the normal desire to avoid conflict in a relatively small group, and yes, I would say most senators would be quite happy if we could return to the status quo.

“Whether we are able to is an entirely different question. We will have to see what the investigators find,” he said.

Barrett cautioned that any decisions about the Senate presidency depends on whether Rosenberg “did not fulfill an obligation that he had to protect the integrity of the process.”

“It’s a terrible thing when your spouse is unfaithful. Your knowing about that doesn’t disqualify you from holding the job. Your knowing that he was boasting about his insolence doesn’t disqualify you either,” Barrett said. “Investigators are going to have to demonstrate a greater abdication of responsibility than anything we’ve heard about so far.”

The important question to answer, Barrett explained, is what kind of failures, if any, does the investigation reveal on Rosenberg’s part. One thing Barrett said was clear is that “a failure to prevent you’re husband from catting around is not by itself” a failure.

“Sadly enough, many spouses have failed to prevent their spouses from catting around,” Barrett said. “It is going to have to be more than that.”

Barrett said there is still a path forward if Rosenberg stays with Hefner, but that path would become murkier.

“You could imagine a situation where they are physically separated but legally married,” Barrett said. “There are all kinds of intermediate situations when you are talking about a genuinely troubled spouse who nevertheless needs your health insurance.”

Rosenberg is the third senate president Barrett has served under.

“Sen. Rosenberg is by far the most inclusive, the most thoughtful and the most committed to good policy,” Barrett said. “He’s managed to construct a broader coalition — inviting both political parties — than one might have ever imagined.”

An outside law firm was hired last month to serve as a special investigator into the allegations.

Rosenberg on Thursday said he’s hasn’t spoken to the law firm and has not discussed the possibility of returning as president with his fellow senators.

He said his return to Beacon Hill after the holidays was “very positive, friendly, and exactly what I would expect from my colleagues with whom I’ve served and worked for so long.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.