Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Roosevelt Island And Upper East Side NY State Assembly Member Micah Kellner Sanctioned For Sexually Harassing Staff Members - Details In Letter From Speaker Sheldon Silver

Reported last July 24 that Roosevelt Island/Upper East Side NY State Assembly Member Micah Kellner (who was running for NY City Council at the time and lost)

 was accused of sexual harassment by a junior member of his Assembly staff. At the time Mr. Kellner responded to the charges by saying:
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.
The NY Times reported yesterday:
A state assemblyman from the Upper East Side of Manhattan was sanctioned on Monday after an ethics investigation found that he had sexually harassed staff members.

The assemblyman, Micah Z. Kellner, a Democrat, was stripped of his position as chairman of the Committee on Libraries and Education Technology and will be forbidden to hold leadership positions in the future. He will also be barred from having interns and will have the size of his staff reduced over time, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said...
According to the NY Daily News Daily Politics:
... In banning Kellner from any future leadership posts and freezing his staff allocations - effectively reducing Kellner’s staff through attrition - Silver went beyond the punishment recommendations made by the ethics committee.

In a letter to Kellner, Silver said his behavior was “intolerable” and “inconsistent with the standards of conduct to which members of the Assembly should be held.”...
Capital New York adds:
... "The findings of the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee concerning the conduct of Assemblymember Kellner are deeply disturbing and I am immediately implementing all of its recommendations," Silver said in a statement. "Let me be clear – this type of behavior is not to be tolerated."

A review by the Ethics Committee, which has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, substantiated the complaints and said Kellner's conduct was “unbecoming of a member of the Assembly and reflects poorly on the entire body.”...
Capital New York provides the full letter sent from Assembly Speaker Speaker Silver to Mr. Kellner admonishing Mr. Kellner for his actions.

I asked Mr. Kellner for a comment and will update if received.

The NY Daily News also asked Mr. Kellner for a comment and report:
Reached on cell phone Monday night, Kellner declined to comment, saying he and his lawyer were still reviewing the ethics committee report.
UPDATE 7:10 PM - A spokesman for Assembly Member Kellner replied:
Assembly Member Kellner does not accept the Ethics Committee’s and Speaker Silver's findings. The letter sent by the Committee was factually inaccurate and the investigation was flawed. Assembly Member Kellner will appeal the ruling in accordance with the Assembly’s 2009-2010 Assembly Sexual Harassment Policy, Article VI, mandating that a hearing officer be designated to conduct a public hearing concerning these findings. At a hearing, sworn testimony must be taken from all witnesses permitting the fundamental right to cross examine the accuser and the evidence that exists. Perhaps then the real facts surrounding this matter will be heard.
NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the following statement:
The latest reports of sexual harassment in the Assembly should be the last straw.

This pattern of behavior is repugnant by every standard and directly contradicts the policies the Assembly has advanced for the last 20 years.

Assemblymember Micah Kellner's conduct, confirmed by the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee's investigation, has no place in New York State government. It is time for him to immediately deny these allegations or resign. Likewise, Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak must immediately deny the allegations against him or resign. If they do not resign, the Assembly must send a clear message that they do not tolerate this abuse of women and should seriously consider moving to expel them if they seek to return this coming session.

Enough is enough. It’s a new year; let’s start with a clean slate.