The state Senate committee investigating Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg’s conduct and whether he violated the rules of the Senate agreed Monday to hire an outside law firm to spearhead the inquiry.
The Senate Committee on Ethics announced it had retained the firm Hogan Lovells US LLP, with lawyers Anthony E. Fuller, Jody L. Newman, and Natashia Tidwell set to lead the inquiry.
The investigation stems from last month’s Globe report that detailed accusations from four men who alleged that Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted or harassed them and who said Hefner bragged he had influence on Senate business. Rosenberg was Senate president from January 2015 until he temporarily stepped down from the leadership position days after the Globe story was published.
Though three of the alleged incidents took place when Rosenberg was just feet away, the Globe found no evidence that he knew about the assaults. Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The ethics committee said in a news release that it is confident that the lawyers — “who have extensive experience investigating alleged misconduct in both the public and private sectors — will fully and fairly conduct the investigation ordered by the Senate.”
The committee, which announced its intention to hire a firm to lead the inquiry earlier this month, set no public time frame for the completion of the investigation. But the six-member, Democratic-majority panel said, “We have asked that the special investigator submit that report as soon as practicable, without sacrificing thoroughness or attention to detail.”
The report that is set to be produced by Hogan Lovells will be made public while protecting the identities of victims and witnesses, the committee said. But until that report is submitted, the panel doesn’t expect to say anything else publicly.
In that vein, a spokeswoman for Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, the chairman of the committee, did not respond to an email seeking more information about how much taxpayer money the firm is being paid, the scope of the investigatory powers the lawyers are being granted, and whether they have subpoena power.
Reached on his cellphone late Monday, Fuller, a Marine veteran and one-time prosecutor in the local US Attorney’s office, declined to comment.
Once the firm issues its report, the ball is in the committee’s court.
It could find Rosenberg had done nothing wrong. Or, if the majority of the committee members find there has been a violation of the rules or other misconduct, they could recommend disciplinary action. That could include reprimand, censure, temporary or permanent removal from a position of authority, suspension with or without pay, or expulsion.
Lawyers for Hogan Lovells may not be the only ones asking questions.
Last week, the Globe reported that the FBI had begun looking into the allegations against Hefner. The newspaper cited two people familiar with the inquiry and wrote the agents are interested in whether Hefner offered a quid pro quo to his alleged victims, using his relationship with Rosenberg to influence the chamber’s business in return for sexual favors.
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