Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sexual Harassment Allegations Leveled Against Roosevelt Island's Assembly Member And City Council Candidate Micah Kellner By A Former Staffer - UPDATE - City Council Opponent Ben Kallos Responds To Harassment Allegations Against Kellner And Receives NOW NYC Endorsement, Lappin Withdraws Endorsement Of Kellner

The NY Times reports today that Roosevelt Island's Assembly Member and NYC Council Candidate Micah Kellner was accused of sexual harassment by a junior staff member. According to the NY Times:
... Four years ago, a junior staff member in Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner’s office complained to her supervisor that she was being harassed by Mr. Kellner, an Upper East Side Democrat. The supervisor, a top aide to Mr. Kellner, reported the matter to Bill Collins, who, as counsel to the majority party, ran the Assembly’s legal staff. The senior Kellner aide presented Mr. Collins with 15 pages of Internet chat transcripts, in which Mr. Kellner made suggestive remarks to the junior staff member, a woman in her early 20s who was new to the job.

Mr. Kellner encouraged the woman to play Scrabble with him on Facebook while conversing through the Google Talk Internet messaging service. In one exchange that took place well after midnight, Mr. Kellner told the woman that he had hired her because “you were cute during the interview.” He asked if she had a boyfriend and told her, “I guess secretly I didn’t want you to have one,” adding, “I like being the only man in your life” and “Don’t cheat on me.”

“I wouldn’t mind falling asleep with you but not remotely,” he wrote. “Did I offend?” ...
... There was no suggestion that the inappropriate behavior in either the 2009 or 2011 episodes was anything other than verbal in nature...
Click here for the entire NY Times article.

I asked Mr. Kellner for a comment on the sexual harassment charge reported today in The NY Times. Mr. Kellner replied:
Over four years ago, for a few weeks while I was still single, I exchanged instant messages with a female member of my staff that were flirtatious. It was inappropriate. I was wrong and it was stupid. When I was told that my staffer felt the messages were unprofessional, I immediately stopped and regretted placing her in that position. I was sorry then and I am sorry now.
UPDATE 1 PM: Mr. Kellner, According to Politicker:
... declined to comment on a second reported complaint from another staffer two years later, saying, “I’m not going to speak to that.”

But what should voters make of the fact that he had been out front, criticizing Mr. Silver for failing to refer complaints for investigation–when that is precisely what is alleged to have happened to the complaints lodged against him?

“Then this should have been handled,” he replied. “I was never informed four years ago of a complaint. So I only learned of this recently.”

Mr. Kellner also declined to speculate about why the complaints had surfaced now–in the midst of a heated election–and sidestepped questions about how he thought voters were reacting to the barrage of political sex scandal, including the latest revelations about mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner....
UPDATE 8:40 PM - Ben Kallos is one of Mr. Kellner's opponents in the Democratic Party Primary for NYC's 5th Council District which covers Roosevelt Island, the Upper East Side and Midtown East.

This afternoon, Mr. Kallos held a press conference in front of Mr. Kellner's 1st Avenue office where he received the endorsement of the National Organization for Women of New York City (NOW NYC)  from its President, Sonia Ossorio.

Mr. Kallos then spoke about the sexual harassment allegations reported today by the NY Times against Mr. Kellner stating:
... I'm not OK with a culture that permits this to go on and say its no big deal...

... in our government there's a culture of powerful people using that power to prey on others. I 'm disappointed today and I call on others to stand up to this culture of fear and harassment...
When asked during the Press Conference:
... would you put Kellner in same vein as Spitzer and Weiner?
Mr. Kallos responded:
... any harassment is unacceptable  and comparing whose worse in the spectrum is not a game we should be playing. Zero tolerance is what it is by the law and that is what it should be for all of us....
NOW -NYC's Ms Ossorio added:
... across the board there's abuses of power and that is the heart of the matter, not to what degree the harassment took place...
Here's video of today's Ben Kallos press conference.

Capital New York reports:
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin withdrew her endorsement of Assemblyman Micah Kellner this afternoon, citing a New York Times story about inappropriate messages he exchanged with female staffers in years past.

Kellner is running for the Council seat currently held by Lappin, who is running for Manhattan Borough President.

In a statement from her campaign, Lappin said, "Today’s New York Times story about Assemblyman Kellner was deeply troubling. His behavior was clearly wrong and inappropriate, as he himself acknowledged. Because of the seriousness of the issue, I am withdrawing my endorsement of him for the City Council seat I currently hold.”...
Click here for the entire Capital New York article.


YetAnotherRIer said...

Huh... does flirting fall into the category of sexual harassment nowadays (ignoring the fact that it was the boss flirting with his exmployee)? I know this is just perfect timing with Spitzer and Weiner in the limelight.

CheshireKitty said...

This looks terrible for Kellner. He had the power to fire the employee if she didn't comply or "play along". He even admitted in writing he hired her for her looks, as someone he might hit upon later if she didn't have a boyfriend. The flirtation wasn't consensual, it made her uncomfortable enough to complain about him. Is anybody in Albany listening? Are the members of Cuomo's new ethics commission listening? Ethics in Albany are in the toilet. Why did nothing happen with this complaint for the past 4 years?

RooseveltIslander said...

More bad news for Micah Kellner. Jessica Lappin withdrew her endorsement of him for the City Council.

NotMyKid said...

Good! He was another bad apple politician who refused to have a meeting with psd to help find a way to run it more efficiently, as well as Lapin.

Kallos can go fly a kite as he already condemned psd without first hand dealings or relationship with psd.

Kaela said...

This is taking things a bit too far. There is a BIG difference between tweeting one's private's or soliciting prostitutes and simple flirting. There wasn't any provocative language, touching or threats involved. Give me a break. It was foolish. Plain and simple. I am very disappointed in Lappin's decision. Micah Kellner has done many great things for Roosevelt Island. He was of great assistance to the residents of what was Eastwood during a dispute with management. Micah you have my vote and I will be more than happy to volunteer!

scrozball said...

Kellner and Lappin should be run out of office. Were against PSD without checking the facts.

CheshireKitty said...

Yep. I suspect you'll see more politicians run for the exits on this one. It was unfortunately a pure case of sexual harassment.

There needs to be an investigation as to why and how this story was suppressed for 4 years. Silver is obviously not in control of the ethics panel he supposedly heads that was supposed to have at least looked into the complaint 4 years ago, if not issued a reprimand or sanction Kellner.

What did Silver know? If Silver knew, why was this story suppressed?

Maybe Cuomo's ethics commission can put a few of these Albany figures under oath and try to find out why and how this woman's complaint played out as it did at that legislative ethics committee.

This story speaks volumes about Silver, and the abysmally unethical culture pervading the entire NYS Legislature. Silver is a powerful politician who represents his district well and is a powerful leader. But that doesn't translate into an ethical leader - not if he seems to always provide cover for erring legislators (such as Lopez, and now, possibly Kellner).

Voters in Silver's district should bear Silver's enabling and covering up of ethics fails in mind when going to the polls next time Silver is up for re-election.

joe said...

OMG! How nieve are Roosevelt Islanders?

Ever since Micah kellner was elected to state office he has been noted to engage in improprities of all sorts. Micah Kellner is not very well respected in the NY State Legislator.
Silly Islanders - Micah only pledges his full support to the Upper east side .. If people open their eyes most would notice ,Micah only arrives on Island when there are problems.. He hardly has ever sponsored something productive on Island !~ Yet Micah Sponsors all types of resident events on the other side of the water. The State of New york allocates funds to every assembly memebr to be distributed to pet projects in their respected districts . I have yet to notice Micah to even consider sponsoring Roosevelt Island day !
I don't think Micah can run from his mishaps in the assembly by running for another political office.. Jessica Lappin was smart to withdraw her support .
As for Micah's "voting record"-
In addition to missing more than (150) votes in the assembly , Kellner introduced only 74 bills this
session, with only 5 or 6.76% passing his own chamber and 2 or 2.7% passing both
Of Kellner's 74 bills, more than half (54%) are one-house bills,
meaning they have NO
Senate sponsorship and are unlikely to even be able to pass both houses,if passed in the Assembly.

Purposley Missed votes:

Micah missed (5)-- key votes on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE,

- A6390:
Establishes domestic violence prevention act

- A2562:
Helps hospitals treat domestic violence victims by through policies, procedures
and training

- A6381:
provides new telephone numbers without charge for certain victims of domestic

- A6547:
Provides that communications or contact between protected parties with a party
against whom an order of protection or temporary order of protection is issued
will not affect the validity of the order

- A00899:
Provides that communications or contact between protected parties with a party
against whom an order of protection or temporary order of protection is issued
shall not affect the validity of such order


Bill providing total disability to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers
– a vote he also missed in the last session.

Frank Farance said...

I just look these events and think: right next to our conscience voice telling us Right vs. Wrong, isn't there some little You're-Going-To-Get-In-Trouble voice saying, Seeing This On The Internet is going to reveal poor judgment as an elected politician. And what happens if she says Yes to your invitations, now your really screwed, right? In other words, by Kellner's flirtations, what did he expect: rejection (bad for him), or acceptance (really really bad for him). Or maybe he didn't think one step ahead (even worse).

I wish politicians had a bit more self-discipline with their libido.

YetAnotherRIer, this is pretty standard in the corporate world: you can't have any communications like this with people you supervise, directly or indirectly.

YetAnotherRIer said...

I agree with that. They quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Everything to get those votes...

YetAnotherRIer said...

I agree with that. The whole issue should not be framed as sexual harassment, though.

YetAnotherRIer said...

I agree with this, too. They all condemned the PSD right away without even taking time to do some fact checking.

Joseph Strong said...

While I think you make some good points and statements about Kellner, Roosevelt islanders are far from naive! We are just constantly kept in the dark by politicians and RIOC. And it seems like new stories with more information are still coming out.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, you don't think framing interactions in terms of sexual relations (a sexual discussion rather than a business discussion) and, especially considering the supervisory role, don't make it sexual harassment? Saying to a worker, you look Fashionable, Smart (in the British sense), and Professional can be an OK compliment in a business environment. Sending messages like "I wouldn’t mind falling asleep with you but not remotely" makes it a framework about sexual interactions. That's right, your boss shouldn't be flirting with you, that's sexual harassment.

CheshireKitty said...

Not: The issue wasn't running PSD more efficiently, the issue was condemning the hyper-enforcement policies of Guerra, specifically. There were enough complaints from their constituents to warrant these elected representatives to call for Guerra's removal.

Even if they had met with Guerra, what do you think Guerra would have told them? How could Guerra have denied the evidence of the medical reports on Jones? How could Guerra have denied the evidence of the deli video?

Kellner, Lappin, and Serrano had seen enough and heard enough to make up their minds. They correctly didn't need to sit down with Guerra to hear more of his evasions, cover-ups and lies.

Kellner used bad judgment in his interactions with the employee. There are undoubtedly more stories out there about him since sexual harassment is most often a pattern of behavior not an isolated instance.

Albany legislators think that because they make the law, they are above the law. That is not the case and I hope Cuomo's ethics commission jumps all over the reason the employee's complaint wasn't acted on for 4 years by Silver's ethics panel.

NotMyKid said...

I saw nothing wrong in the deli video from a police perspective. Perhaps there were clerical mistakes as noted, I don't know.

Let's drop the name jones from here. Quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

I want the new director and officers on scene at lighthouse who escorted and closed the park, what mr,jones did and what he said to mr.mcmanus.

Let me help by saying he said something to the effect that he got guerra fired and he in untouchable and he will get hm fired if they make him leave or lock him up at any point.

Don't believe me, let the RIOC board put him and others under oath and speak the truth of what happened at lighthouse on July 4th. I a, shocked McManus did not let him have it as he was mere inches away from the mans face.

Perp is a perp is a perp.

Random said...

Well, now we know where Lappin is at. As for Kellner, he's been on our side all along and will be a great improvement over Lappin on the City Council.

CheshireKitty said...

You expect us to believe a third-hand story about what Jones said at the July 4th bbq at Lighthouse Park? Can you prove that Jones was even there much less that he bragged about being untouchable, and then got in McManus' face?

The evidence of the deli tape,however, is incontrovertible. Excessive force was used. Deli workers who did nothing whatsoever, and were merely bystanders, were arrested.

The evidence of the medical reports on Jones also doesn't lie: Jones sustained a fractured rib in addition to other injuries in the course of being arrested. Jones alleged "crime": Nothing!

NotMyKid said...

Can I prove he was there? Along with a big group of his friends and short of direct video, which is a damn shame noone from psd recorded his actions, no.

This is second hand knowledge, not third hand. Direct from people who were there.

CheshireKitty said...

So it's hearsay evidence. Maybe the officers and director should appear under oath to testify - let a jury decide the truth. Just like a jury will decide on the truth after reviewing Jones medical records.

NotMyKid said...

Perhaps. I just know the people on scene had no involvement with jones and had no reason to lie to me. Therefor I heard from two different people at different times tell me the same exact story.

I found that pretty odd, don't ya say? Unless of course it's a scripted conspiracy!

CheshireKitty said...

"...the people on scene had no involvement with jones and had no reason to lie..." But you've said elsewhere that the morale of PSD was destroyed after the beating and ensuing brouhaha. If that's the case, then how could any PSD officer be absolutely objective after what happened the past six months? Every PSD officer - unless they really disliked Guerra - must have an ax to grind after Guerra's departure. That's what makes me question the veracity of the bbq story - perhaps there was exaggeration in the story to "smear" Jones.

But - I agree - we'll only be certain of the truth when all the participants testify under oath about the circumstances of the events of 1/16 and a jury considers the testimony and evidence and decides. The story of the 7/4 Jones statements is only a story, quite possibly might be negative buzz deliberately retailed to discredit Jones and thereby strengthen RIOC's bargaining position vis-a-vis a possible settlement.

Frank Farance said...

NotMyKid, you're a lousy officer: "Perp is a Perp is a Perp", yet you've claimed no knowledge of Anthony Jones incident? And ongoing falsification and fabrication of testimony is a "clerical error"? You need retraining with that attitude.

So a person who was almost killed by PSD has recently (according to you) expressed satisfaction that he and others partially achieved justice in ongoing PSD abuse. The problem with PSD, right now, is that it doesn't really have the "authority", the respect of the Island. Even with Mr. McManus' arrival, PSD has a very long road to repair the damage. At the rallies against PSD, Guerra was right to call in NYPD rather than have PSD provide crowd control. PSD still has a credibility problem, and NYPD should have been the entity for the Lighthouse event.

Also, you've claimed knowledge of PSD officers, which isn't representative. I asked: How Many Officers Don't Like Their Uniforms (poor morale, etc.), and they said less than 5%. Apparently, the advantage of the present uniforms are: they are much cooler in the recent hotter weather, as compared to NYPD-style uniforms.

I agree: RIOC Board/staff, PSD Brass/Officers should be put under oath about what they new where and when. You'd see 5 years of incompetence by the RIOC Board in their oversight role. Ditto for problems with PSD Brass and Officers ... we'd have a better understanding of what happened in many incidents that have helped formulate negative opinions about PSD.

Back to the main point: you need re-training, you shouldn't be patrolling with such faulty thinking.

billblass said...

I am happy for the mess he is in when the working class people asked him for help with the mess that working non fixed income people are having in eastwood as they are losing their sec 8 as their income keeps going up. He did nothing to help those people. This is justice for those people

CheshireKitty said...

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and two Democratic state senators -- Jose Serrano of the Bronx and Brad Hoylman of Manhattan have also rescinded their endorsements of Kellner.

CheshireKitty said...

The staffer who complained about Kellner faced a hostile work environment - treated very badly by Kellner - after she complained about him.

Frank Farance said...

Kellner didn't have the self-awareness to know his actions were problematic? He said "When I was told that my staffer felt the messages were unprofessional, I
immediately stopped and regretted placing her in that position." OK, maybe a staffer can give you advice on which tie looks better with your suit. But on moral, legal, and ethical issues? You're the boss, you're supposed to be The Leader on this, and you're a legislator ... uniquely qualified to understand these issues better than most, right?

And if the staffer had not said the messages were unprofessional, Kellner would have continued the behavior and felt is was OK? No internal moral/ethical compass guiding Kellner? Truly, a disgusting, weasel-word explanation of his behavior.

CheshireKitty said...

According to this story, Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez is also withdrawing his endorsement of Micah Kellner.

CheshireKitty said...

One Assemblymember, Dan Quart, says Kellner's behavior "...was inappropriate, was unprofessional, and was wrong".

While he will not (yet) rescind his endorsement, he notes that Kellner has "asked to be investigated …"

CheshireKitty said...

Here, DailyKos weighs in - not only about Kellner's sexual harassment problems but about his "...legalized bribery and corruption."

Read and weep..

johnson said...

Ben Kallos is more appropriate to succeed Lappin. e is a fresh face to the district. We need young ambitious elected leaders . Not the status quo. Kellner is an opportunist ! The nerve of him to continue his campaigne is obsured to say the least. He should step aside and face the music in the assembly ....