State senators to meet Monday on harassment investigation of Rosenberg’s spouse
While state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg’s colleagues mostly remained tight-lipped Sunday, one fellow Democrat continued calling for him to step down during an investigation of Globe reports that Rosenberg’s husband sexually assaulted and harassed four men.
Meanwhile, another Senate Democrat said he believed Rosenberg could still lead effectively and he has heard similar support from colleagues.
State Senator Barbara A. L’Italien of Andover on Friday called for Rosenberg to step down and she continued to urge that in an interview broadcast live Sunday on WCVB-TV’s “On the Record,” saying she is concerned that additional victims will not come forward if he remains in control of the Senate.
“I believe that in order for an investigation to have integrity and for the sake of the victims, which I think we need to be focusing on at this point, that the Senate president needs to step aside during an investigation,” L’Italien told interviewers Ed Harding and Janet Wu.
State Senator Jason M. Lewis, however, said he believes an investigation can be conducted fairly while Rosenberg remains in power.
“I have full confidence . . . that that investigation will provide a safe environment for anyone who has any knowledge of this matter or has been involved in any manner to come forward and share their story without any repercussions to them,” said Lewis, of Winchester, in a phone interview Sunday.
The Globe reported Thursday that three men said Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, 30, had touched their genitals without consent, and another said Hefner had kissed him against his will. The Globe did not identify the men, who still work in state politics.
Rosenberg, 68, said Friday that he was shocked and heartbroken by the allegations and would fully cooperate with an investigation. The Globe has found no evidence that Rosenberg was aware of Hefner’s alleged behavior.
Additionally, MassLive reported Sunday that an unnamed fifth person said that earlier this year Hefner had sent him an unsolicited text message containing a photo of male genitalia.
Several of the alleged incidents took place after Rosenberg promised in 2014 that he would enforce a “firewall” between his public and private lives, after Hefner was accused of mocking senators online and meddling in Senate business.
Rosenberg said Friday that Hefner will enter treatment for alcohol dependence.
Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey have called for a speedy investigation of the allegations.
Senate Democrats and Republicans are scheduled to meet in separate caucuses Monday morning, followed by a formal session hastily scheduled for the body to authorize an independent investigation.
Rosenberg and his staff did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment on Sunday. A spokesman for Robert A. DeLeo, speaker of the state House of Representatives, declined to comment.
Most of the Senate’s 36 other members did not reply to phone and e-mail inquiries Sunday. Those who responded condemned Hefner’s alleged behavior and voiced support for an investigation, but they hesitated to take a position on Rosenberg’s political future.
Senator William N. Brownsberger said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon that he was “just trying to get my mind around” the allegations and was “not prepared to comment” on whether Rosenberg should retain the Senate presidency.
“We’ll have a caucus tomorrow,” the Belmont Democrat said. “We’ll know a lot more then.”
Senator Julian Cyr said in a statement that he commended the men who came forward with allegations and the situation requires a “swift and thorough investigation.”
“I have full faith that Senate Majority Leader [Harriette L.] Chandler and Minority Leader [Bruce E.] Tarr will make sure an investigation is handled properly and promptly, and am encouraged that they will be bringing in an outside investigator,” the Truro Democrat said.
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz issued a statement saying she was “distressed and deeply saddened by these allegations” and supports an independent investigation. But she also noted that the state Senate “has no actual jurisdiction over Mr. Hefner” and suggested its inquiry “should not be the entirety of the government’s response to these allegations.”
The Jamaica Plain Democrat said senators “need to be humble and cautious in our assumptions about how impartial we can be” given their working relationships with Rosenberg.
In the televised interview Sunday, L’Italien said Rosenberg is “highly regarded” by colleagues and has “done a wonderful job.” She said that “it felt like a neutron bomb in the Senate” when the news broke on Thursday.
L’Italien also said she thinks most of her Senate colleagues believe Rosenberg’s assertions that he was unaware of his husband’s behavior.
“My sense is that most people feel that he had no idea, that he was really the last to know, and my heart aches for him,” she said.
She was more critical of Hefner, whom she never named during the interview.
“This is a scenario where someone felt that they had power, and they were able to wield that power over others,” she said. “They felt they had influence over them.”
Lewis said he had seen no evidence that Hefner had influence within the Senate and that he believes “that Senator L’Italien’s position is not shared by other senators . . . with whom I’ve spoken.”
He thinks Rosenberg can be an effective leader despite the distraction of the investigation, he said.
“It does obviously present some challenges, and it will be more difficult for him and for the Senate for the time being,” he said, “but I believe that we can work through that.”