Senate President Rosenberg Stepping Down (For Now — Refresh For Updates) Worcester’s Chandler is IN!

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2017/12/04/senate-president-rosenberg-stepping-down-for-now/

 

Editor’s note — this page will be updated throughout the day (or as long as it takes)

7:35 p.m. Senate Democrats have named Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler as acting Senate President.

State Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) has confirmed  to New Boston Post that Worcester Democrat Harriette Chandler, after roughly an eight-hour Democratic caucus, has been named (for now) acting Senate president. 

“I think it’s absolutely necessary to say the allegations in those acts are completely intolerable, outright unacceptable, and that the question now is absolutely what an independent will look like,” Fattman told New Boston Post. “But a part of that is the Senate Ethics Committee is responsible for receiving the report from the independent investigator.”

Fattman said he is going to push for the independent investigator’s report to be made public. He noted that Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) has also said the same.

“I know Senator Tarr has committed this to be handled in a public way way,” Fattman said. “All members should do this.”

Yet Monday’s closed-door session lasted more than eight hours. Fattman said he and other Republicans were not welcomed into the session, held by Democrats, until after they had selected Chandler as Rosenberg’s interim successor. It is still unclear whether Rosenberg will stay on in the Senate. 

Fattman said he expects a vote on Chandler’s naming, in addition to investigation parameters, to occur at 8 p.m. Monday. Fattman added that he and other Republican senators were not privy to internal decisions during the lengthy Democratic caucus. 

An investigation into Rosenberg and Hefner could cost taxpayers upwards of $1 million. 

 

6:45 p.m. (Senate Democrats, and now Republicans, have remained inside a closed-door caucus for about eight hours)

Attorney General Maura Healey has commented on Trump’s SCOTUS victory, in which the body determined that his order to halt immigration visas from six predominately Muslim countries is constitutional:

A New Boston Post reporter’s request for comment earlier from Healey’s office was met with a background statement. 

Massachusetts Senate Democrats remain inside a closed-door caucus. 

6:15 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) chimes in with his support for Attorney General Maura Healey’s investigation, which is being assisted by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley’s office:

Caucus continues.

5:15 p.m.

In what might be a first, but which also can be interpreted as a sign of the close bonds that Democrats and Republicans of the Massachusetts Senate share, Republican members were admitted into the Democratic Caucus amid talks about the investigation into Hefner/Rosenberg issue — and the apparent discussion about which Democrat may be Rosenberg’s interim replacement, or successor. 

“We’re coming to, I think, the final stages of this,” Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) told reporters after emerging from a fourth-floor State House conference room where lawmakers have been huddling for more than five hours.

Minutes before Chandler spoke to reporters, state Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-North Andover) — who has called outright for Rosenberg to resign — told reporters she believes it will still take a few more hours for senators to enter formal session and vote, according to a State House News Service report. 


4:50 p.m. (Democrats have remained in closed-door caucus for more than five hours)

While Massachusetts Senate Democrats were still caucusing, Republican President Donald Trump scored a victory via the Supreme Court on his proposal to halt immigration visas from six predominately Muslim countries.


3:50 p.m. (Democrats have remained in closed-door caucus for more than four hours)

More on Attorney General Maura Healey’s statement regarding a criminal investigation into Hefner’s actions:


3:30 p.m. (Democrats remain in closed-door caucus)

Senate Democrats remain tight-lipped as they enter and exit a fourth-floor State House conference room. 

During a brief Senate session this morning — attended by just Senators Tarr, Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth), and Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) — the only order adopted was a measure ensuring the body would reconvene at some point later in the day to determine the parameters of the Rosenberg/Hefner investigation and vote on who will take over the reins (as of now temporarily) from Senate President Rosenberg.

Another question likely being discussed inside the closed-door caucus is whether the next Senate president, should he or she be acting on an interim basis, will also lay claim to the salary benefits linked to the post. 

Last January, the state Legislature voted to enact a veto-proof pay-bump package tied to leadership posts, one in which Rosenberg saw his pay soar roughly $45,000 to a little more than $142,000. 

Complicating matters is the fact that Hefner, his civil-law husband, stands to benefit from Rosenberg’s pension package once the Amherst Democrat exits Beacon Hill — either by resignation or future retirement.


2:45 p.m. (Democrats remain in closed-door caucus)

Attorney General Maura Healey and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley have announced they will be conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations surrounding Hefner. 

“As is typical in any potential sexual assault investigation, our first necessary step is to speak with survivors and others with direct knowledge of the allegations,” they said in a joint statement provided to the Boston Globe. “This is important not only to gather information but to understand the nature of their experience and to provide access to the supports and services we offer every survivor through our offices.”

Tarr has also publicly speculated about the difficulties of a Senate president taking a leave and then returning to lead the chamber:


2:15 p.m. (Democrats remain in closed-door caucus)

State Representative Jim Lyons (R-North Andover) did not hold back in his criticisms of Rosenberg during an afternoon interview with conservative WRKO radio host Jeffrey Kuhner. Asked by Kuhner the fairness of tying the Hefner allegations to Rosenberg’s legislative responsibilities, Lyons was blunt:

“If you really think about the decision-making of a 60-year-old man who is having a relationship with a 19-year-old, you really have to question his decision-making prowess to begin with. So I think that we have a Senate president who is unable to make decisions as it relates to his husband.”

Lyons’s comments refer to the beginning of Rosenberg’s relationship with Hefner. Rosenberg, now 68, met Hefner, now 30, while Hefner worked a summer position in Rosenberg’s office. Both grew up in foster care and have reportedly been romantically connected since 2008 before marrying in 2016. 

Prior to their civil-law marriage, Hefner drew unwanted attention for Rosenberg after the Amherst Democrat ascended to the role of Senate president after former Senate President Therese Murray’s term ended. Hefner reportedly created a Twitter burner account to mock the outgoing Murray and her team, which led to Rosenberg vowing to install a “firewall” between his personal life and his Senate dealings. 

Rosenberg has previously said he would not have “come out” as a gay man had it not been for his relationship with Hefner.

Senate Democrats still remain in caucus and have apparently ordered pizza.


1:40 p.m. (Democrats remain in closed-door caucus)

Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a Democrat running to unseat Republican Governor Charlie Baker in 2018, issued a statement at 1:30 p.m. Monday backing the Senate’s decision to initiate an independent investigation: 

“I am certainly alarmed by what I have heard, but I’m heartened that the senate quickly began working to set up an independent investigation. The most important thing is that victims feel safe coming forward so they can tell their story and we can all find out what happened. I suspect that in order for that to happen the Senate may have to choose a new leader. At this point it seems clear to me that leaders on Beacon Hill need to set up a process for reporting and investigating sexual harassment and assault claims that honors the courage of victims who are stepping forward, not one that discourages them.”

During the course of Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham’s investigation (it was Abraham, a former State House reporter, who first reported the allegations Thursday afternoon), Hefner’s alleged victims apparently voiced concerns about coming forward with their stories, citing blow-back and potential damage to their careers. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are still caucusing behind closed doors, and are apparently using Senate court officers as escorts to keep reporters at bay while taking bathroom breaks.


MORNING UPDATE:

BOSTON — Senate President Stanley Rosenberg will be stepping aside from his post as the investigation into his civil-law husband’s alleged Beacon Hill sexual harassment activity moves forward.

The investigation will likely focus not only on whether the alleged perpetrator, Bryon Hefner, grabbed the genitals of three men and kissed a fourth against his will, but also whether the alleged acts had any impact on Rosenberg’s stewardship over legislative matters. 

In a statement issued Monday morning, the Amherst Democrat said he believes “taking a leave of absence from the Senate Presidency during the investigation is in the best interest of the Senate,” and added that he wants 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.”

Senate Democrats were mum Monday morning ahead of a closed-door meeting, while Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) spoke briefly to reporters ahead of a scheduled 1 p.m. Senate session where lawmakers are expected to discuss the pending investigation. 

Tarr told reporters the Senate is currently mired “in its darkest hour.”

The Senate Democratic caucus lasted several hours and also involved discussions on who would take Rosenberg’s place at the rostrum. 

Tarr added that Monday afternoon’s vote will determine who will lead the investigation.

“It will be an open and transparent process,” Tarr said. “There is no selection that has been made, the orders you will see in a little while will make clear what the process will be for that selection.”

Tarr cited Senate Rule 12A, a statute that outlines ethics investigations and dictates how the details from subsequent findings are publicly released, but stressed that the rule “allows us only to act given the conduct of a member or a member of the staff.” 

“But there are things that have been alleged here that criminal behavior may have occurred, and the Senate has no jurisdiction over criminal behavior.”

Meanwhile, several Democrats have indicated their interest in serving in Rosenberg’s place while the investigation moves forward. North Andover Democrat Barbara L’Italien, who is also in the midst of running for Congress, has said Rosenberg should resign from his post immediately. 

As of 1:10 p.m., with caucuses apparently still ongoing, the Senate had yet to enter into session. A press availability scheduled at 12:30 p.m. featuring Tarr and Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) has been postponed.

 

 

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