WESTFIELD – On Monday, Dec. 4, several actions were voted by the State Senate following receipt of a letter from Massachusetts Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg requesting a leave of absence as Senate President while an investigation takes place regarding alleged sexual harassment and assault by his husband, Bryon Hefner. Following the session, Senators Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and Donald F. Humason, Jr. (R-Westfield) issued public statements regarding the chain of events.
The letter from Rosenberg read:
To my colleagues in the Senate, I would like to take a leave of absence as your President, effective immediately, for the duration of the investigation that I expect you will authorize today. I believe this is in the best interests of the Senate. I want 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. I ask that you elect an Acting President for the period of my absence as President. Thank you for your consideration of this request. Stan Rosenberg
The Senate took unanimous (37-0) action, accepting the letter and ordering a review of the question by the Senate Commnittee on Ethics:
Relative to the recusal of Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg and his staff from all decisions relating to investigations of the Senator Rosenberg’s conduct or that of his spouse: Ordered, that, Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg and his staff shall be recused from all decisions relating to investigations of the Senator Rosenberg’s conduct or that of his spouse.
Relative to the question of the conduct of President Stanley C. Rosenberg: Ordered, that, the question of the conduct of Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg and whether he violated the rules of the Senate be referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics for its consideration in accordance with Senate Rule 12A. The Senate Committee on Ethics is authorized and directed to retain a special investigator, who shall investigate the question and submit a report and recommendations as soon as practicable to the Committee. The special investigator’s report shall be subject to Senate Rule 12A and shall maintain as confidential the identity of any individual providing information to the investigator, unless the individual specifically consents to being identified. The special investigator shall have full access to the President’s office and the full cooperation of his staff. The Senate Committee on Ethics is authorized to require by summons the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books and papers and such other records as the Committee may deem relevant.
The Senate also voted to elect Democratic Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) as Acting President through the course of the investigation.
Rosenberg is the first Senate President from Western Massachusetts in four decades.
Hinds issued a public statement on Monday following the Senate actions. “The allegations of sexual misconduct by the husband of Senate President Stan Rosenberg are deeply disturbing. That is why I supported our actions today. Our focus was first with the victims. Their courage is admirable. No one who serves, works, or does business in the Legislature should feel unsafe, coerced, or unsupported,” Hinds wrote.
Hinds said along with the votes to accept Rosenberg’s letter and direct the Senate Committee on Ethics to conduct an investigation to determine if any Senate Rules have been violated, the Senate will also review its sexual harassment policy through a Special Sexual Harassment Committee charged with conducting the review and recommending necessary changes. Hinds said he also supports a separate criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s office.
“I believe Attorney General Maura Healey and Suffolk District Attorney Dan Connelly’s intentions to open parallel criminal investigations are necessary to ensure any criminal conduct which is outside of the Senate Ethics committee jurisdiction will be investigated and appropriately addressed. This is an important step to address possible criminal claims,” Hinds added.
Hinds represents the 52 western communities of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District, including Chester, Huntington and Blandford. This is his first term in the Massachusetts Senate.
On Tuesday, Humason also spoke about the events in the Senate. “While the Senate is in the midst of an unprecedented and turbulent time, it is important for us, as a body, to be able to continue to work on behalf of our constituents. Yesterday (Monday) we took important steps to continue our work and also move forward with an investigation into the deeply troubling allegations against the Senate President’s husband,” Humason said.
Humason, who represents the second Hampden – Hampshire District which includes Westfield, Southwick, Granville, Russell and Tolland, is the Senate Assistant Minority Leader.