Rosenberg’s Husband to Seek Treatment
By Colin A. Young
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Calling the roughly 24 hours since allegations of sexual misconduct by his husband surfaced “the most difficult time in my political life and in my personal life,” Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said Friday his husband will seek treatment for alcohol dependence and that he is confident an investigation will find his husband has no influence on Senate business.
“I was shocked and devastated to learn of the allegations reported in the Boston Globe. Any time there are allegations of sexual harassment and assault, we should all be shocked and devastated. Our hearts must go out to anyone who has been hurt, and I encourage anyone, anywhere, any time to come forward,” Rosenberg said, reading a brief statement outside his office. He added, “My heart goes out to anyone who may have been hurt, and I am committed to helping anyone who has been harmed. This has been the most difficult time in my political life, and in my personal life.”
The Boston Globe on Thursday published a report alleging that between 2015 and the summer of 2016, Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, groped three men and kissed another against his will. The men who claimed they were groped and subjected to unwanted sexual advances by Hefner include a Beacon Hill aide, a lobbyist, a public policy advocate and a man who worked on Beacon Hill when Hefner allegedly put his hand up his shorts at a fundraiser, according to the Globe article.
The story also included claims that Hefner has said he speaks for the Senate president and he communicates with lawmakers and staff about Senate business. One alleged victim said Hefner made clear that he was asking for sexual favors in exchange for help on Beacon Hill.
“I have repeatedly made clear that Bryon was to have no influence on what happens in the Senate. He has no influence over policy, the internal operations of the Senate, or any Senate related business,” Rosenberg said Friday afternoon. “If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true.”
As soon as Monday, senators could be asked to authorize the appointment of a special investigator to probe Hefner’s alleged misconduct and its effects on the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr are working to structure the investigation.
State Sen. Barbara L’Italien, of Andover, issued a statement on the allegations Friday evening.
“I fully agree that an independent investigation is warranted,” L’Italien stated. “However, I believe that for the sake of the institution, the Senate president should also step aside from the duties of the Senate Presidency for the duration of any investigation.”
L’Italien said the Senate Caucus scheduled for Monday will give senators the time to consider the allegations.
“I have known and respected Stan Rosenberg for 15 years and it pains me that this level of transparency is required but I believe that this is warranted,” she stated.
State Sen. Eileen Donoghue, of Lowell, said the allegations are shocking to hear and read.
“Having processed enough for a day, it’s abundantly clear that it’s imperative there be a complete and thorough independent investigation of all allegations of sexual assault,” she said. “It’s incumbent upon the Senate that Beacon Hill does not turn a blind eye to sexual harassment or sexual assault.”
Donoghue said she feels badly for the victims, but commends their bravery to come forward.
“It is extremely serious and has to be dealt with appropriately and swiftly,” Donoghue said. “Their claims will be treated seriously and they will not be brushed under the rug.”
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, of Acton, also released a statement Friday, saying he was shocked, saddened and angered by the news. He also supported the idea of an independent investigation.
“The men who stepped forward to share their painful experiences have shown great courage,” Eldridge stated. “No one in Massachusetts should be subject to sexual abuse, including in the workplace.”
Eldridge added that the Legislature should create an independent human relations office so victims of sexual assault and harassment have a safe place to report misconduct.
State Sen. Cindy Friedman, of Arlington, who represents Billerica, Burlington and other area communities, called an independent investigation a “good idea.”
“I hope that it’s done quickly and expeditiously,” Friedman said.
“It makes sense to me,” she added about launching an investigation.
Rosenberg has recused himself from the investigation. He will retain the title, duties and powers of the Senate presidency as it unfolds, Chandler announced Thursday night. Rosenberg did not address his leadership role in the Senate on Friday afternoon and ignored a question about whether he can still effectively lead the Senate.
“Today because of the imminent investigation I have been advised not to answer questions at this time,” Rosenberg said, leaving a pack of media behind as he headed back into his office.
It remained unclear Friday who will lead the investigation and what its specific scope will be.
“I am looking forward to fully cooperating with the investigation and look forward to the findings,” Rosenberrg said. “I am confident that the investigation will find that Bryon had no influence on the workings of the Senate.”
The Senate president, a fixture on Beacon Hill since the late 1980s, became emotional as he read from a prepared statement Friday, at one point pausing for 10 seconds as his lip quivered.
Rosenberg, 68, married Hefner, 30, in 2016. The two met when Hefner worked for a summer in Rosenberg’s office, and Rosenberg has credited Hefner with helping him to come out and live openly as a gay man.
“Bryon is seeking professional help for alcohol dependence, which will include his being admitted to an in-patient treatment center very shortly,” Rosenberg said. “The last 24 hours have been heartbreaking and difficult. I have spent most of those hours processing those allegations, and I will continue to do this as he prepares to enter treatment.”
Tarr said Friday that he and Chandler “should have something ready very soon, that very clearly spells out what the parameters of the investigation are.” He said he wanted to “create a climate where people feel that they feel they can come forward and they can have honest discussions with the investigator, or investigators, depending on how many there are, and that we can get to the bottom of this without having anyone feel unduly threatened by the process.”
The Senate Ethics Committee, helmed by Westport Sen. Michael Rodrigues, may get involved at some point, said Tarr, a Gloucester Republican.
Tarr said he did not imagine it would be necessary for the investigator to have subpoena power, but if that authority becomes necessary, “then that becomes an issue for the Ethics Committee, which can have subpoena power if authorized by the Senate.”
Tarr said it’s too soon to tell if Rosenberg should continue to lead the chamber while the investigation proceeds. Tarr believes Rosenberg is “evaluating what this will mean for [his] commitment to the Senate.”
Katie Lannan contributed reporting.
Sun reporters Kori Tuitt and Rick Sobey contributed to this report.