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Senate committee vows to protect witnesses in Rosenberg investigation

The Senate Ethics Committee hired a law firm in December to conduct an independent investigation into whether former president Stanley C. Rosenberg violated Senate rules in connection with the allegations.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/File 2016

The Senate committee investigating former president Stanley C. Rosenberg adopted a policy Thursday designed to protect the anonymity of witnesses who say Rosenberg’s husband sexually assaulted and harassed them and boasted of his influence over Senate matters.

The Senate Ethics Committee hired a law firm in December to conduct an independent investigation into whether Rosenberg violated Senate rules in connection with the allegations.

But the Globe reported Saturday that only one of the four men who have accused Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, of misconduct has spoken to investigators hired by the Ethics Committee.

Those who have so far avoided the investigation say they don’t believe their anonymity will be protected or that they will be safe from retaliation if they come forward.

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Governor Charlie Baker acknowledged the victims’ concerns earlier this week and said he wants the Senate to “make it possible for people to come forward without fear of retribution.”

The policy adopted by the Ethics Committee Thursday says the law firm conducting the investigation and the Senate counsel “shall maintain as confidential and shall not disclose to any party, including any member of the Senate,” the identity of any victim, witness, or subpoena recipient “unless the person specifically consents to being identified, or disclosure is required by judicial process or procedure.”

Senators Michael J. Rodrigues and William N. Brownsberger, who are chairman and vice chairman of the Ethics Committee, said the policy formalizes their previous vows to protect the privacy of victims who speak to Hogan Lovells, the law firm conducting the investigation.

“We don’t need to know — and specifically do not want to know — the names of the people or any other identifying information that would give us a clue as to who they’re talking to,” Brownsberger said.

Rodrigues said it’s been the practice of the committee since its inception “not to know the names of any victims or witnesses, and we thought we made that clear.”

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But he acknowledged that after reports that some people were wary about testifying, the committee needed “to make it clear to everyone that [not] the Ethics Committee, nor any senator, nor anyone, will know the names of any victims or witnesses, whether they come forward voluntarily or they are subpoenaed to come forward.”

Brownsberger and Rodrigues said the committee will only oversee the number of subpoenas issued and will not know the names of anyone that Logan Hovells wants to summon.

“This is truly an independent investigation,” Rodrigues said. “The committee is not directing the investigator in any way.”

“There will be no names leaked in the investigation,” Brownsberger added. “We’re not going to leak names, and the investigators are not going to leak names — they’re professionals.”

Rosenberg, who stepped down as Senate president in December, continues to serve as a rank-and-file member. Hefner went into residential treatment for alcohol dependency, and a Rosenberg spokeswoman has said the couple has separated.


Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.
com
. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.