Upper East Side Assemblyman Micah Kellner is being punished by Speaker Sheldon Silver after an Assembly committee verified claims of sexual harassment against the lawmaker. Kellner is still under investigation but the case also puts the spotlight back on the speaker's role in handling this and other sexual harassment cases. Zack Fink filed the following report.
On a Monday night during the holiday season, the Assembly's Ethics Committee concluded that Democratic Assemblyman Micah Kellner violated the Assembly's sexual harrassment policy.
"It's interesting that they dropped the information at 7 o’clock the night before the last day of the year. That's called a document drop, or document dump. Get bad news out there when nobody's watching,” said Assemblyman Steve Mclaughlin of Troy.
The committee found that Kellner created a hostile work environment for some of his employees. One female staffer complained of unwanted sexual advances and NY1 reported this summer that a male employee made similar complaints.
The Ethics Committee recommends that Kellner immediately be removed as chair of any Assembly Committees. Kellner is not to have any interns in his Assembly offices. An independent investigator must check in with Kellner's employees at least semi-annually ( to ensure the conduct does not persist ). And he is required to attend immediate supplemental sexual harassment training.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver immediately adopted all of the recommendations.
Silver recently called on a buffalo area-Assemblyman to resign over charges of sexual harassment, and issued statement which read, "I believe both members must seriously and immediately consider whether they can continue to represent their constituents effectively."
Silver has been criticized not only for his handling of this case, but also for earlier harassment complaints that led to the resignation of Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
"This speaker needs to resign. He should have resigned six months ago. Governor Cuomo has done nothing about it. He should be standing up demanding that Silver resign,” said McLaughlin.
Governor Cuomo issued a statement which read in part, "Assemblymember Micah Kellner's conduct, confirmed by the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee's investigation, has no place in state government. It is time for him to immediately deny these allegations or resign."
Late on Tuesday, a spokesman for Kellner responded, saying "Assembly member Kellner does not accept the Ethics committee's and Speaker Silver's findings. The letter sent by the committee was factually inaccurate and the investigation was flawed.
Kellner is still under investigation by the state's independent ethics commission.