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Women’s Groups Want Rensselear County Executive-Elect To Step Aside

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Several women's groups and Renselear County politicians are calling on Steve McLaughlin to resign from the New York State Assembly — and not take  office in January as Rensselaer County Executive.

In November, McLaughlin won the race for the open Rensselaer County Executive office, beating Democrat Andrea Smyth by less than a thousand votes. 

In late November, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued sanctions against McLaughlin, following a harassment complaint filed over the summer that McLaughlin had made lewd comments to a female Assembly employee. McLaughlin, who denied all allegations against him, was ordered to reimburse the Assembly for the cost of sexual harassment and retaliation prevention training he took in July.

That news came after McLaughlin was heard on a tape published by the Times Union berating a staffer with crude language. McLaughlin apologized but refused to leave the race.

Now, the newspaper reports Smyth is circulating a letter on behalf of "Rensselaer County Women Leaders and Groups" demanding McLaughlin vacate the post he has yet to be sworn into. According to the newspaper, County Legislator Cindy Doran and outgoing Sand Lake town supervisor Flora Fasoldt said McLaughlin is unfit to lead. Here's Doran:     “In our press release I was quoted as saying that, as a legislator and a legislator for the next four years, I plan to introduce a resolution banning the use of county taxpayer funding from being used in any way to enter into any kind of confidential settlement agreements with victims who may have been harassed on-the-job. I feel very strongly that we're stewards of the county taxpayers money and the burden of any kind of sexual acts have to fall on the perpetrator. The people cannot be responsible for that. So that was my statement that was sent out to the press. The author of the Times Union article may have spun that in a different way, not that I disagree."

Former long-time Rensselaer County Legislator Virginia O’Brien is calling on McLaughlin to acknowledge that he is unfit to lead by refraining from being sworn-in as county executive and undergoing extensive sensitivity training.    "It's a call to action right now, in terms of, the window is certainly is open regarding you know the #MeToo movement and the fact that this sort of sexual harassment at any level is just not going to be tolerated anymore. And the fact that Mr. McLaughlin does have a history with behavior that we would think is actually inappropriate and now that he will be stepping up to manage a large staff as the Rensselaer County Executive, we're just concerned that his pattern of behavior could continue with associates that he would be working with and we want him to know that it's not going to be tolerated."

McLaughlin's office did not respond to a call for comment.

O'Brien continued:   "In reality the likelihood of him stepping down is probably nil. But we want him to kwow that even though that might not happen, that he might not step down, we are gonna be watching, we are observing his behavior, and will not tolerate it."

Outgoing Republican County Executive Kathy Jimino did not seek a fifth term.

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