BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg changed course Monday and agreed to relinquish his responsibilities as Senate leader during an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations involving his husband.
Rosenberg had originally said he would recuse himself only from any matters related to the investigation or the allegations against Bryon Hefner.
On Monday, Rosenberg informed senators just prior to a closed-door Democratic caucus that he would step aside temporarily, though he would remain in the Senate.
“I believe taking a leave of absence from the Senate Presidency during the investigation is in the best interest of the Senate,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “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.”
The Senate was expected to vote later Monday on a plan to appoint an independent investigator whose focus likely would be on whether Rosenberg knew about Hefner’s alleged behavior, or if Hefner had any clout when it came to matters before the chamber.
Rosenberg, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, expressed shock over the allegations reported last week by The Boston Globe. The Democrat maintained that his husband had no influence over his policy decisions or actions by the Senate.
“It is simply not true,” Rosenberg said in a statement read to reporters on Friday.
Only one senator, Andover Democrat Barbara L’Italien, had publicly called on Rosenberg to step aside “for the sake of the institution” as president until the investigation is completed.
L’Italien told reporters before entering the closed-door caucus that he did not see how alleged victims could come forward during the investigation if Rosenberg was still presiding over the Senate. She also said it would be difficult for the Senate to conduct normal business under the circumstances.
“With a very ambitious agenda for January, I don’t see how we can accomplish any of this with this cloud hanging over his head,” said L’Italien, who recently announced her candidacy for the 3rd congressional district seat.
Other Democratic senators declined to comment as they entered the caucus.
Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler, who is likely to assume Rosenberg’s duties on an interim basis, and Republican leader Bruce Tarr were expected to discuss the process for appointing an independent investigation at a news conference prior to Monday’s Senate session.
Several men told the Globe that Hefner sexually assaulted or harassed them, including three men who said Hefner grabbed their genitals.
The men, who were not named by the Globe, said they did not report the alleged incidents partly because they did not want to alienate the powerful Senate leader.
Rosenberg said Friday that Hefner would soon enter treatment for alcohol dependency.