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Stan Rosenberg cited for ‘significant failures of judgment and leadership’ as officials call for him to resign

This story was reported and written by Joshua Miller of the Globe staff, Globe correspondent Matt Stout, and Yvonne Abraham of the Globe staff.

Former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg betrayed the body he was entrusted to lead by giving his partner unfettered access to his official e-mail, undermining chamber policies, and failing to protect the Senate and its staff from a spouse he knew had harassed them, according to a blistering report issued by his colleagues on Wednesday.

Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey called on Rosenberg to resign after a monthslong investigation by the Senate Committee on Ethics found "significant failures of judgment and leadership by Senator Rosenberg in his role as Senate President. Those failures undermined the integrity of the Senate and had destructive consequences for the body and the people with business before it."


After an outside law firm interviewed 45 people and searched 250,000 e-mails and 19,000 text messages, the committee determined Rosenberg "knew or should have known" that his now estranged husband, Bryon Hefner, was racially and sexually harassing Senate employees. But the Amherst Democrat ignored years of warnings and broke his 2014 promise to colleagues that he would maintain a "firewall" between his personal and professional life, according to the report.

A spokeswoman for Rosenberg couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday evening. A lawyer for Hefner, who has pleaded not guilty to multiple criminal charges of sexually assaulting three men and distributing naked photos of a fourth, did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

In disturbing detail, the 80-plus-page document prepared by Hogan Lovells US LLP describes how Hefner injected himself into Senate business again and again. He posed as Rosenberg in messages to staff and to an elected official. He repeatedly engaged in sexual misconduct against Senate staffers. And, in a new allegation, he directed "racial epithets" toward a Senate aide, who then reported it directly to Rosenberg.


Meanwhile, Rosenberg continued to provide Hefner with "largely unfettered access to Senate information and to the people who worked in, or had business before, the Senate."

But the report ultimately determined that Rosenberg did not break any official Senate rules, nor was he directly responsible for the alleged misdeeds of Hefner.

The Ethics Committee recommended the full Senate forbid Rosenberg from holding any leadership position in the next legislative session, should he be reelected. Senators are expected to vote Thursday on whether to accept that punishment or impose a harsher one.

The ethics panel launched its investigation after the Globe in November reported allegations from four men who said Hefner had sexually assaulted and harassed them and bragged he could influence Senate business. Hours before the investigation was authorized, Rosenberg announced he was temporarily stepping down from the presidency, but not the Senate. He has since been permanently replaced as president, but has said he is running for reelection as senator.

Senators — Republicans and Democrats — huddled behind closed doors Wednesday debating, without conclusion, how the body ought to punish Rosenberg. At least three Democratic senators publicly called for Rosenberg to resign Wednesday evening.

The investigation expands the universe of people who say Hefner sexually assaulted them. Two of the accounts in the Senate report were not included in either the criminal charges or the Globe's November story.

And some of the most serious allegations in the report come from people who say they were the victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of Hefner but were afraid to take action to stop the behavior given Hefner's relationship with Rosenberg.


Hefner inappropriately touched and repeatedly attempted to kiss a Senate staffer, according to the report. But the staffer did not report the conduct "because the staff member believed alienating Hefner might damage the staff member's career" as a result of Hefner's relationship with Rosenberg.

During 11 hours of interviews with investigators, Rosenberg insisted that he had not known about any of Hefner's alleged sexual assaults, handled Hefner's offensive conduct as best he could, and said that Hefner did not wield any undue influence over Senate business — that the firewall, as he narrowly defined it, was not breached.

The report found no evidence to contradict Rosenberg's claim about his knowledge of allegations of sexual assault. But it's clear that the lawyers who interviewed him did not find his other claims credible.

"While we credit Senator Rosenberg's assertions that he was not aware of much of this conduct on Hefner's part, he had a hand in enabling the behavior by continuing to provide Hefner largely unfettered access" to the Senate, the report states.

The report outlines several accusations of criminal acts by Hefner, including some that overlap with the charges he faces in Suffolk Superior Court. While other allegations may not rise to that level, investigators found them relevant enough to include in the report.


In one text message it's unclear whether Hefner is joking with his longtime partner, with whom he shared graphic sexual comments and disparaging remarks about senators.

"I want to roofie [a senator] and make a sex tape," he texted Rosenberg in May 2016, using a slang term for Rohypnol, a date rape drug.

The name of the senator Hefner referenced was hidden by the lawyers.

On Wednesday, the full Senate met in the office of Senate President Harriette L. Chandler. Before discussing it, everyone sat quietly and read the report, most for the first time, according to Senator Donald F. Humason Jr., Republican of Westfield.

Under Senate rules, members of the Ethics Committee could have recommended a range of disciplinary measures against Rosenberg, from a reprimand to expulsion. They recommended to the full Senate that if Rosenberg wins reelection this fall, he be kept in a rank-and-file role and barred from any leadership assignments or chairmanships and the lucrative stipends they offer through the next legislative session, which ends in January 2021.

But, as the drumbeat of calls for Rosenberg's resignation grew louder, several senators said the Senate has not yet decided whether it will accept that recommendation.

"It's really up to us to wrestle with a possible range of implications here and Senate responses. I think everything is on the table," said Michael J. Barrett, Democrat of Lexington.

Texts were just one dimension of a damning portrait of Rosenberg, who investigators found gave Hefner access to his e-mail for at least eight years, as well as his mobile devices.


Rosenberg, they said, had "insisted" to staff that Hefner have direct access to his official Senate account despite knowing the 30-year-old "to be an untrustworthy and unpredictable alcohol abuser and whom he believed to be mentally ill." Giving Hefner the password, Rosenberg argued, was vital in helping "us plan our lives."

But doing so was also in direct violation of Senate policy, which states that sharing credentials is strictly prohibited. Rosenberg pleaded ignorance to that, saying he never read the policy.

The investigation found that, on at least three occasions, Hefner posed as Rosenberg in electronic communications.

"You're all still failures for your lack of foresight," Hefner texted staff from Rosenberg's cellphone in 2016. "Sometimes the best person for the job is a straight white man . . . . or a whole office full." (At the time, Rosenberg's office included women and at least one person of color.)

In two other instances, Hefner sent messages from his husband's official Senate e-mail in January 2017 purporting to be Rosenberg, including directly e-mailing an elected official one night at 9:30 asking to set up a lunch or dinner.

Yet, in a meeting last week with members of the Ethics Committee, Rosenberg's lawyer maintained that when it came to the firewall, the senator had "fully honored that pledge."

Investigators said that they found no direct or circumstantial evidence that Hefner swayed Rosenberg's official actions.

But they rejected Rosenberg's argument, writing that not only was the firewall breached, it was "nonexistent."

The report also found Rosenberg undermined another set of key Senate guidelines: its antiharassment policy.

Rosenberg's lawyer argued to the Ethics Committee — four Democrats and two Republicans who attached an eight-page letter of their own to the investigative report from the Hogan Lovells law firm — that neither the Senate's information technology nor harassment policies applied to senators.

The finding drew a stinging rebuke from the committee. "Senator Rosenberg claims that he was not bound by the policies," they wrote. "That is not leadership."

Rosenberg became romantically involved with Hefner in 2008, and has credited his partner with helping him come out as a gay man and beat cancer. They married in September 2016.

Rosenberg, 68, told the lawyers he felt deeply indebted to Hefner, 30, and had to stand by him in difficult times.

Rosenberg said the only way he could have fully walled off Hefner from his work would be to leave or divorce Hefner, or quit the Senate, neither of which he was willing to do.

At least one unnamed elected official weighed in directly on Rosenberg's relationship with Hefner, investigators say.

At a social engagement in December 2014 at that elected official's residence, Hefner showed a picture of a naked man to the host, who had a visibly negative reaction.

According to the report, "as he was leaving the residence, the host whispered in Senator Rosenberg's ear that he had 'to get rid' of Hefner."

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com; Matt Stout at matt.stout@globe.com; and Yvonne Abraham at yvonne.abraham@globe.com.