Senate Ethics Panel Holds Marathon Meeting Regarding Beacon Hill Sex Misconduct Scandal, Approves Confidentiality Motion

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By Michael P. Norton

BOSTON — As the work of an outside investigator unfolds, the Senate Ethics Committee met for three hours at the State House on Wednesday, adopting a motion that two committee members said affirms the committee’s intent to keep confidential the identities of anyone, including the subjects of subpoenas, who may become involved as Hogan Lovells continues its probe into whether former Senate President Stan Rosenberg broke Senate rules.

The committee on Thursday announced that it had adopted a motion that it says will “formalize its existing practice” as outside attorneys, who were hired 38 days ago, examine anonymously reported allegations that Rosenberg’s husband Bryon Hefner sexually assaulted people with business before the Legislature and claimed to hold sway over Senate business. The charges, outlined in the Boston Globe, sparked the committee’s investigation. As the probe began, Rosenberg gave up the presidency and he has subequently announced his separation from Hefner and that Hefner is receiving treatment for alcohol dependence.

The Boston Globe and WGBH recently reported that witnesses who may have information to offer the investigators are fearful of coming forward, in part due to a belief that their names will be made known to committee members who may be asked to issue subpoenas, a level of authority that’s held by the powerful panel.

In a brief interview Thursday, committee chairman Sen. Michael Rodrigues and vice chairman Sen. William Brownsberger said the identities of subjects of subpoenas would not be made known to the committee. The panel has not issued any subpoenas and no subpoenas have been requested, said Brownsberger. 
Under normal circumstances, Brownsberger said, the committee itself would issue subpoenas making the identity of the subjects known to members of the committee. In the Rosenberg investigation arrangement, he and Rodrigues said, subpoena requests would come from the investigator and the panel would act without knowing the identity of the subject.

Senators have stated their hope that anyone with information to offer investigators will come forward. “The Committee again encourages individuals with relevant information to make use of the Special Investigator’s dedicated and confidential email address and toll-free hotline. The email address is: The toll-free number is 855-281-7775 and will be answered by Hogan Lovells staff,” the panel stated on Thursday.

The motion adopted Wednesday was disclosed in a statement issued by the committee on Thursday afternoon. In the interview, Rodrigues disclosed that the committee had met from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the State House. Asked about topics of discussion, Brownsberger said that was “way beyond” what could be disclosed. The senators said all of the committee’s members attended the meeting.

The unanimously adopted motion states that a special investigator hired by the panel and Senate counsel “shall maintain as confidential and shall not disclose to any party, including any member of the Senate, the identity or identifying information of any victim, witness, subpoena recipient or other person who provides information to the Special Investigator or the Senate Counsel, unless the person specifically consents to being identified, or disclosure is required by judicial process or procedure.”

Sen. Cynthia Creem of Newton, a member of the committee, declined to comment on the reasoning behind the motion. “It’s confidential,” she said. “You know that I’m on the Ethics Committee.”

In its statement, the committee described the investigation by Hogan Lovells as “active and progressing” and said “no names have been shared” with the committee by the investigator.

Committee member Sen. Richard Ross said the motion was “reaffirming what we’ve believed all along but people just don’t understand, so, it’s just — we can’t talk about it. It’s an independent committee. And it’s working. That’s all I’ll say.”

As for the investigation, the Wrentham Republican said, “It’s progressing. And there’s no stagnation. It’s moving right along.”

The committee held an open meeting when it launched its investigation in December, but closed that meeting after making opening statements. Over the years, the House and Senate Ethics Committees have typically held closed deliberations. The Legislature is not subject to the open meeting law.

Rosenberg was on hand for Thursday’s Senate session, which was led by Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler.

[Matt Murphy and Sam Doran contributed reporting]