Top Democrat in Mass senate steps aside amid sexual misconduct probe against his husband

The Massachusetts Senate’s top Democrat has temporarily stepped aside amid a probe of sexual misconduct allegations against his husband.

The Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ethics began an investigation Tuesday into State Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who announced Monday that he would suspend his responsibilities as president while the probe was underway, Fox News reported.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

“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 Boston Globe reported last week that four men had accused Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, of sexually assaulting or harassing them with three of them alleging he grabbed their genitals.

The ethics committee will reportedly hire an outside investigator as Democratic Majority Leader Harriette Chandler will take over as the state Senate’s acting president. Chandler called the accusations “very serious and very disturbing,” according to the Boston Globe.

“I am shocked and saddened,” she said.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker called Rosenberg’s decision “the right one.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren found the charges “disgusting.”

“The charges against the Senate president’s husband are disgusting and the people who have leveled these charges have a right to be heard and to be respected and protected,” she told reporters, according to Fox News.

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While he will no longer receive his $80,000-a-year Senate presidential stipend, Rosenberg would still get the annual pay of about $62,500 as well as a $20,000 office stipend, according to a Treasury spokeswoman, the Boston Globe reported.

The ethics investigation will be looking into whether Rosenberg broke chamber rules, if he knew about Hefner’s behavior and if the spouse had any influence in the government business.

According to the Globe:

Hefner’s alleged victims and others have said Hefner boasted of his pull in state politics and of his influence with Rosenberg. One alleged victim — a policy advocate who said Hefner assaulted him in the fall of 2015 — said he understood that Hefner was offering to help smooth his path in the Senate in return for sex. Several people said Hefner spoke of Rosenberg’s work in the Senate as what “we” — Rosenberg and Hefner — were trying to accomplish.

Rosenberg said last week, “If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true.”

The victims, who were not named by the Globe, were urged to come forward Monday by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura T. Healey and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who plan to launch a separate, criminal investigation into Hefner’s behavior.

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