Massachusetts governor, top prosecutor ask ex-Senate president to resign

Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey are calling on former Senate President Stan Rosenberg to immediately resign his seat after an ethics investigation found he showed lack of judgment and leadership in dealing with his husband, who’s facing sexual misconduct charges.

The report released Wednesday concluded the Amherst Democrat “failed to protect the Senate” from his husband, Bryon Hefner.

The Senate Ethics Committee said independent investigators found that while Rosenberg did not formally violate any Senate rules, he did violate the chamber’s information technology policies by giving Hefner “unfettered access” to Rosenberg’s Senate email account even before he became Senate president in 2015.

That access only ended in March, 2017 after Rosenberg staff members detected two instances of Hefner surreptitiously emailing two public officials as if he was Rosenberg, investigators said.

The report said Rosenberg “knew or should have known Hefner had racially and sexually harassed Senate employees” and failed to address the issue adequately.

Baker said Rosenberg should resign his seat in the 40-member chamber, saying the report “reveals a deeply disturbing pattern of behavior” and that Rosenberg compromised the business of the Senate and the trust of his constituents.

“For the good of the institution and those who elected him to serve, I believe the Senator needs to resign immediately,” Baker said.

Healey, one of the top Democrats in the state, also said it’s time for Rosenberg to go.

“It’s clear to me that Stan Rosenberg cannot continue to serve in the Senate,” Healey said. “I think it’s best if he steps down immediately.”

The committee recommended that Rosenberg not serve in a position of leadership or as chair of any committee for the remainder of his current term or during the 2019-2020 legislative session.

The investigation began in December after allegations surfaced that Hefner sexually abused or harassed several men, including some with business before the Senate.

Rosenberg stepped down as Senate leader shortly after the probe began, though he remains in the Senate and has said he intends to run for re-election in November.

Senate President Harriette Chandler, who replaced Rosenberg as president, called the report “thorough and troubling.”

“Like my colleagues, I am taking time tonight to further review the report and the strong recommendations of the Ethics Committee,” the Worcester Democrat said.

The investigation was conducted by attorneys from the Boston law firm of Hogan Lovells, including Anthony Fuller, a former federal prosecutor.

“The special investigator’s conclusions — which do not establish a violation of any formal Senate rule — nonetheless demonstrate a significant failure of judgment and leadership by Senator Rosenberg in his role as Senate President,” the report says. “That failure undermined the integrity of the Senate and had destructive consequences for the Senate and the people with business before it.”

“Essentially, Senator Rosenberg failed to protect the Senate from his husband, whom he knew was disruptive, volatile and abusive,” the investigation found.

In 2014, before his election to the top post in the Senate, Rosenberg assured colleagues he would build a “firewall” between his professional and personal life, following reports that Hefner had boasted on social media about his influence with Rosenberg.

But that firewall was “ineffective,” the report says.

Hefner, 30, pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court last month to charges of sexual assault, criminal lewdness and distributing nude photos without consent. He was released on personal recognizance and his attorney has said he would defend himself in court.

Messages left with a spokeswoman for Rosenberg on Wednesday were not immediately returned.

Rosenberg announced earlier this year that he and Hefner had separated.

According to investigators, Rosenberg was aware Hefner “routinely expressed in graphic terms sexual interest in members of the Senate and Senate staff,” and was also aware that his husband had downloaded and texted images of nude men.

Rosenberg also was aware Hefner had once used racial epithets against a Senate staffer, the report says, and told the staffer to report the incident to the Senate counsel.

Rosenberg, 68, was the first openly gay lawmaker to lead a legislative chamber in Massachusetts.