It has been five months since the Boston Globe broke a deeply troubling and credible story of sexual abuse by the husband of then Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. The victims were members of senate staff and others with business in the state house.
Senator Rosenberg stepped down, initially on a temporary basis, and the Senate tasked its Ethics Committee to investigate. Our first step on the Ethics Committee was to retain an independent professional to conduct an investigation that fully protected the identities of the victims so they would not be exposed to retaliation.
That process took longer than any of us wanted, but resulted in a lengthy report that surfaced new allegations of misconduct by Hefner and also found that Senator Rosenberg knew of some of the misconduct and failed to take adequate steps in response to it. We made that report public in its entirety. The key findings were:
- The “firewall” Senator Rosenberg had promised his colleagues between his private life with Hefner and the business of the Senate was ineffective in restricting his husband’s access to information from Senator Rosenberg’s office;
- Senator Rosenberg had violated the Senate’s IT policy by sharing his confidential computer password with Hefner, giving him unfettered access to Senator Rosenberg’s Senate email account;
- Senator Rosenberg had undermined the goal of the Senate’s anti-harassment policy to promote a workplace free from sexual and other forms of discriminatory harassment because he knew or should have known that Hefner racially and sexually harassed Senate employees and failed to address the issue adequately;
- Senator Rosenberg had acted unreasonably in allowing Hefner largely unfettered access to Senate information both through direct access to his email account and through their personal communications about Senate business; and
- Senator Rosenberg had not violated the Senate Rules, including Senate Rule 10.
We on the Ethics Committee felt that absent evidence of a violation of law or rule by Senator Rosenberg we should leave his tenure up to the voters, but we did recommend what was, perhaps, the harshest sanction we could impose short of expulsion. We recommended that “Senator Rosenberg not serve as Senate President, as a member of Senate leadership or as chair of any committee for the remainder of the 2017-2018 legislative session and for the entire 2019-2020 legislative session.”
Every member of the Senate chairs one or more committee with compensation commensurate with responsibility. With no committee chairmanship, Senator Rosenberg would be the lowest paid, weakest member of the Senate.
He resigned the next day stating that:
In light . . . 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.
All of us in the Senate feel a mixture of anger, relief and sorrow at Senator Rosenberg’s departure. As angry as we are that he was unable to protect people from his husband, and as relieved as we are that the controversy is over and that victims can move forward without fear, we also remember his personal generosity and his many good and important accomplishments over his long tenure. Most recently, he was a prime mover in our criminal justice reform effort.
Conflicting emotions aside, we are resolved to prevent future abuse. The Senate adopted the following statement:
We accept and endorse the findings of the special investigator and thank the victims and witnesses who came forward, to push us to become a better institution. We will continue to work to earn and honor your trust. We thank the Special Investigators and the Ethics Committee for the care they took both to protect witness’ anonymity and to make the report, in its entirety, public.
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.
We pledge to you to work diligently and swiftly to fortify the Senate’s systems for preventing and intervening in harassment in all its forms. Staff and all those who walk through the State House doors must be able to work in confidence that these policies are lived values, and not mere pieces of paper.
We adopted this statement by a unanimous roll call vote and are committed to following through.
“we also remember his personal generosity and his many good and important accomplishments over his long tenure.”
Indeed, many of us all across the Commonwealth do also.
I wish the “official” Senate statement had been as generous to former Senate President Rosenberg, as Senator Brownsberger’s [“we also remember his personal generosity and his many good and important accomplishments over his long tenure. Most recently, he was a prime mover in our criminal justice reform effort”].
I wish the Senate would have allowed Senator Rosenberg’s constituents to make the decision about Senator Rosenberg rather than the Senate.
One person I know said that if the people injured had been women rather than men, or people of color rather than white people, the Senate would not have taken the actions that it took.
FWIW, if you read the report, Hefner did abuse women and people of color and those were among the incidents that were more offensive to senators.
Politics is not fair. Compared with Trump’s depravity, dishonesty, and lack of accomplishments, Stan Rosenberg’s record and moral character seem quite good.
Trump’s many issues are NOT the point of this discussion. That’s for Congress and hopefully the voters in two years’ time. Rosenberg was an employee of the state, a representative of his district, and an adult responsible for his spouse’s personal behavior. He failed all three. BTW: I think Trump is a low-life. I see no reason to qualify or to quantify one low-life from another.
I believe that his constituents in this case should be the ones to accept or not accept his resignation.
His resignation is done upon his transmittal of the letter. Acceptance is symbolic.
But your point is a good one — that is a central reason that the Ethics Committee did not consider recommending his expulsion. Each senator is hired and fired by his or her own voters.
This is a sad day. People need to remember all of the good as well as the bad. No one is perfect, he did a lot of good in many ways but there seems no good way to end this. I wish him the best for the times that he helped others especially on justice reform where he gave a voice to those who had none.
I think the Senate handled it properly.
I appreciate the Ethics Committee’s diligence and transparency on this matter. Thank you Senator Brownsberger!
Thank you for steadfast commitment to this difficult, necessary work.
The Ethics Committee was foolishly political in holding the report until the day after the deadline for filing signatures to run for Rosenberg’s seat. I suppose the reason was to give him an easy path to re-election, but that backfired when he resigned.
Since all the usual candidates lacked the courage to run against Rosenberg, though he was so weakened, we can look forward to a brave woman, Chelsea Kline, representing that district and, I hope, shaking up the Senate.
I am unhappy that his resignation leaves the people of that district with no representation for 8 months, especially since I think their State Rep. Seat is open also.
His constituents will be served by neighboring legislators. We will not let them go unserved.
I understand Ilana’s concern and the appearance that is the basis for Sue’s speculation, but none of this was in our mind as we worked on the Ethics Committee.
The committee agreed on its recommendations and finalized its report on the Monday before the Wednesday on which the report was released, leaving barely enough time to have it all printed for release. It did have the investigator’s report earlier, but released the complete package as soon as it could.
Believe it or not, the committee was preoccupied with finding truth and doing justice and simply did not consider the signature filing date.
If our timing aided Chelsea Kline, so be it. I’m sure be an excellent colleague.
what benefits will he take with him and why?will he receive the big kiss in the mail every month? we would like these questions answered or info as to how to get them
He will get the state pension he is entitled to for his decades of service.
One does not lose one’s pension unless one is convicted of a felony that is job related and our investigator founds no crimes.
Will, this had to happen. But that it had to happen doesn’t make it any less sad. I appreciate that your ethical sense prevailed and at the same time you offered generosity.
Amen. Thank you all for your bravery and determination to do the right thing.
I will always wonder how this could have happened. The voters accepted Sen. Rosenberg’s gay marriage and promise of a firewall separating his professional and personal lives. He had to know that some public individuals could not swallow his husband abusing colleagues sexually and trying to manipulate legislation for his own protection and gain. Many thanks to the Ethics Committee applying the law in its finest form and acting on the truth.
Thanks for keeping us informed and for all your hard work on this painful, difficult issue. This is a sad time but I’m relieved that it’s over and you can get back to work on important legislation. I was confused by the Senator’s statement that he “hadn’t broken any Senate rules.” If this is true: Are there clear rules in place now so that this couldn’t happen again?
We are looking at the question of whether the rules need more specificity.
There is always a catchall — we can sanction “misconduct” whether or not it violates the rules.
It’s lovely to know that- at least in Massachusetts, Justice is truly being served. Thanks so much to all who’ve made this possible and, by presenting a fair and balanced choice (in light of his flagrant neglect) that allowed Senator Rosenberg the opportunity to leave with some measure of Grace to contend with the painful issues that obviously abound in his marriage.
As others have stated before, this episode has been painful for all and will continue to be so for Rosenberg and his husband. As an IT person in healthcare, I can’t understand how Mr. Hefner’s unauthorized access continued for so long. I know of two instances where two individuals (years apart) accessed personal patient information. Every access point to every function uses the system’s logical and physical IO, date and time of day to the millisecond, application, and duration. The hospital terminated them later that day.
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