Massachusetts Senate president steps aside amid sexual misconduct probe against his husband

The top Democrat of the Massachusetts Senate stepped aside Monday after his husband was accused of sexual misconduct by several men.

State Senate President Stan Rosenberg told other senators that he would relinquish his responsibilities as president temporarily amid a probe of allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner.

"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."

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Rosenberg initially said he would recuse himself only from matters related to the investigation against his husband.

Several men alleged last week that Hefner sexually assaulted or harassed them, including three men who claimed he grabbed their genitals, The Boston Globe reported. The men, who were not named by the Globe, said they did not report the abuse partly because they did not want to alienate the powerful Senate leader.

The Senate elected Democratic Majority Leader Harriette Chandler to take over as the body's acting president.

State lawmakers also voted Monday to refer the case to the Senate Ethics Committee and authorized the panel to hire a special investigator to conduct an independent probe. The investigator would be given the authority to summon witnesses and have access to Rosenberg's office.

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The investigation will focus on whether Rosenberg knew about Hefner's behavior or if Hefner had any clout when it came to matters before the chamber. Rosenberg said Friday that Hefner would soon enter treatment for alcohol dependency.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, through a spokeswoman, called Rosenberg's decision to step down "the right one,” and Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters, "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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.