Rosenberg Resigns Senate Seat After Scathing Ethics Report

May 3, 2018

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

     Massachusetts State Senator Stan Rosenberg has resigned.

     A four-decade legislative career that began in western Massachusetts and culminated with the Senate presidency for the Democrat came crashing down following allegations of sexual misconduct against his husband.

      Rosenberg’s resignation, which will be effective at 5 p.m. Friday, followed the release of a devastating report from the Senate Ethics Committee based on a months-long investigation by a team of attorneys hired by the Senate.

      It concluded Rosenberg compromised the office of the Senate President by failing to keep the “firewall” he promised to maintain between his public office and his husband Bryon Hefner. 

           For years, Hefner had “unfettered” access to Rosenberg’s government email account and cellphones, and even impersonated Rosenberg in communications on occasions, the investigators found.

    State Senator Michael Rodrigues, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, said Rosenberg knew, or should have known, that Hefner was harassing legislative staffers.

  " Essentially, Senator Rosenberg failed to protect the Senate from his husband who he knew was disruptive, volatile, and abusive," said Rodrigues.

   The investigation was launched last December after four men who had business before the Senate told accounts to the Boston Globe about being sexually harassed by Hefner, who claimed he had influence over legislative matters.

   Rosenberg stepped down as President when the investigation began.  He and Hefner are now separated.

   Hefner is facing criminal charges, including indecent sexual assault.  He has pleaded not guilty.

    The Ethics Committee concluded Rosenberg had not violated any Senate rules, but that his judgement was so terrible he should not be allowed to serve in any leadership capacity or as a committee chairman.

    In a statement announcing his resignation, Rosenberg said the disciplinary measures would not allow him to fully represent the interests of his constituents.

   Rosenberg, 68, of Amherst, was elected to the State Senate in 1991, moving over from the Massachusetts House.  He became Senate President in 2015.  He was the first openly gay leader of a legislative branch in Massachusetts.

    Former Democratic State Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst served with Rosenberg in the State House for 25 years.

    " I am just desperately sorry that it came to this," Story said in a telephone interview. "Stan made one bad decision in getting involved with this deeply troubled young man and it just turned out to be disaster."

    Story praised Rosenberg as an outstanding legislator, a champion for his alma mater UMass Amherst, a policy wonk, and someone who represented the “values” of the district.

    " There is huge affection for him among his constituents in his district," Story said.

    The filing deadline to run for a legislative seat has passed, leaving Democrat Chelsea Kline of Northampton as the only other candidate on the ballot for the Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester District.

    A write-in campaign is possible, but would be very difficult in such a geographically-large district, in the opinion of Matt Szafranski, Editor-in-Chief of Western Mass Politics & Insight.

     " I can guarantee you that if ( the Ethics Committee report) had come out two weeks ago, you would have seen a flood of candidates for that seat. It is very coveted and there are lot of ambitious people in the district," said Szafranski.

    Kline, in a statement on Twitter, thanked Rosenberg for “making the right decision for survivors, for the Senate, and for the district in stepping down today.”