Rosenberg to resign from Senate Friday in wake of ethics investigation

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Published: 5/3/2018 1:02:58 PM

AMHERST — State Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, the Amherst Democrat who has represented the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Senate District since 1991, will resign from his position at 5 p.m. Friday in the wake of an ethics report released Wednesday.

Rosenberg issued a statement announcing his resignation a day after a Senate ethics investigation determined that he should have known about his now-estranged husband Bryon Hefner’s pattern of “disruptive, volatile and abusive” behavior and that he failed to protect the Senate from Hefner.

Hefner’s alleged actions include felony sexual assault and related charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

“I had hoped that, with the conclusion of the investigation, I would be able to focus, once again, on representing my constituents and contributing meaningfully to the work of the Senate,” Rosenberg wrote. “In light, however, of the disciplinary measures recommended by the Ethics Committee, it would not be fair to my constituents to have a representative in the Senate who lacked the authority to represent their interests fully.”

Rosenberg said the report showed that he was largely vindicated of any wrongdoing.

“In its report, Hogan Lovells found no conduct by me that violated Senate rules or state ethics law, no evidence that Bryon influenced my actions as Senate President, and no knowledge on my part of any alleged sexual advances, assaults or attempts by Bryon to influence other senators or staff,” Rosenberg wrote. “The report does, however, summarize statements from witnesses alleging that Bryon engaged in actions that harmed them and others, and it finds fault with my not having done more to control Bryon’s access to information and to the people who worked in and around the Senate.”

The Senate Ethics Committee, after reviewing the report, recommended that Rosenberg not serve in any leadership capacity for the remainder of the current legislative session and for the entire 2019-20 legislative session. After the entire Senate met for a caucus on Thursday morning to discuss that recommendation, Rosenberg announced he would resign.

In his resignation statement, Rosenberg also apologized to his colleagues and to others for his efforts falling short.

“As I have stated repeatedly over the last five months, I deeply regret the difficulties that this situation has created for the members, the staff and the institution of the Senate,” he wrote.

‘Right decision’

Chelsea Kline of Northampton, who was set to challenge Rosenberg in the Democratic primary in September, released a statement shortly after Rosenberg announced his resignation.

“I want to thank Senator Rosenberg for making the right decision for survivors, for the Senate, and for the district in stepping down today,” Kline’s statement read. “Senator Rosenberg leaves an impressive progressive legacy that has improved lives throughout Massachusetts. In stepping down, Senator Rosenberg makes room for survivors, for the district, and for the progressive movement to move forward and to move on.”

Following the presentation of the ethics investigation report after a five-hour joint caucus of the Senate behind closed doors Wednesday, Attorney General Maura Healey, Gov. Charlie Baker and five Democratic senators called for Rosenberg to resign. On Thursday, the Senate met again behind closed doors, and released a statement Thursday evening saying the Senate accepts Rosenberg’s resignation and pledges to prevent harassment going forward.

“We accept Senator Rosenberg’s resignation because we agree with the decision that it is no longer appropriate for him to serve in the Senate. As members of this body, we want to say to victims, staff, and all whose lives were affected: We are sorry for what you have been through. You deserved better. We must do better.”

Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, whose district encompasses nine Hampshire County hilltowns, issued a statement Thursday afternoon after the Senate accepted Rosenberg’s resignation.

“I strongly appreciate and thank those who were brave enough to share their stories with the investigators, and truly hope the Report’s findings — and the resulting decision made today — will allow the victims and impacted parties to begin their healing process,” the statement read.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz also said in a statement that he respects Rosenberg’s decision to resign in the best interests of his constituents, colleagues and staff and the Senate.

“I also commend him for accepting responsibility for the serious lapses in judgment outlined by the Ethics Committee report and apologizing to those whose lives have been deeply affected by them,” Narkewicz said.

“Stan Rosenberg has served the people of western Massachusetts ably and diligently for over thirty years as both a State Representative and State Senator. He has been a tireless advocate for his constituents on so many important issues and all of our communities are better for his service.”

Senate rules

Rosenberg’s resignation follows a monthslong investigation into whether he broke any Senate rules in relation to charges of sexual assault brought against Hefner. In November 2017, after Rosenberg and Hefner had been married for a little over a year, the Boston Globe printed allegations from four unnamed men who accused Hefner of sexual assault and bragging about holding sway over the Senate affairs of his husband.

In December, Rosenberg stepped down from the Senate presidency and said Hefner would be seeking treatment for alcohol dependency.

“Any time there are allegations of harassment or assault, we should all be shocked and devastated,” Rosenberg said at a press conference in December. “Our hearts must go out to anyone who has been hurt and I encourage anyone, anywhere, anytime to come forward.”

In January, Rosenberg announced that he and Hefner had separated. The Senate Ethics Committee hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation into whether Rosenberg had broken any Senate rules in relation to sexual assault and criminal lewdness charges brought against Hefner.

Hefner had previously stirred controversy in 2014, when the Globe reported accusations that he had posted mocking tweets about outgoing Senate President Therese Murray of Plymouth and boasted about the power he would soon yield over Senate affairs when his then-fiancé Rosenberg took her place.

Rosenberg responded by sending a letter to his colleagues in which he said he would enforce a “firewall” between his private life and the business of the Senate.

The Senate ethics investigation found that the firewall between Rosenberg’s business and personal life was “non-existent” and that Hefner had “unfettered access” to Rosenberg’s emails for almost nine years.

The Senate Ethics Committee paid $229,511 to law firm Hogan Lovells of Boston last month for the investigation and 80-page report, which was made available in its entirety Wednesday afternoon. The Senate thanked the investigators in the statement on Rosenberg’s resignation for making the entire report available to the public and for protecting the witnesses’ identities.

Natasha Perez, Rosenberg’s chief of staff, said that Rosenberg was unavailable for further comment on Thursday.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com. M.J. Tidwell can be reached at mjtidwell@gazettenet.com.


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