Ex-NYC mayoral aide also lost previous job over harassment
NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York City mayoral aide who was quietly forced out of his job over sexual harassment allegations was fired previously for similar reasons.
The Democratic Governors Association in Washington tells The New York Times that Kevin O’Brien was fired in December 2015.
O’Brien had been a senior staff member for Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana. Bullock served a one-year term as chairman of the governors association in 2015, and he sent O’Brien to Washington to be his representative at the organization.
O’Brien left the governors association in December 2015 after a woman employed there accused him of sexually harassing her and an investigation backed her up.
Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, Eric Phillips, said on Monday that the mayor only became aware of the prior situation as a result of The Times’ reporting.
Phillips said that the city’s Department of Investigation, as part of a standard background check, contacted both the governors association and an administrative office that deals with personnel for the state of Montana. He said the department “received confirmation of title and work dates and no adverse information.”
Bullock agreed with the decision to fire O’Brien from the DGA and thought that would end the harassment, Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel said in a statement on Tuesday.
The governor “expected that having been held accountable for his actions, Kevin would not repeat the behavior,” Abel said. “Knowing what he knows now, it’s clear to Bullock the DGA termination wasn’t enough to protect more women from what has proven to be an unacceptable pattern of behavior.”
Bullock said that he was “deeply troubled” to learn of the New York accusation when it was reported by The Times earlier this month and that he is committed to doing his part to end sexual harassment, according to Abel.
Bullock doesn’t recall de Blasio asking the governor for a recommendation before hiring O’Brien, and the mayor did not ask Bullock why O’Brien departed from the DGA, Abel said.
Asked why the governor did not inform the mayor anyway, Abel referred to her earlier statement that Bullock didn’t believe O’Brien would harass anyone else after he was fired.
O’Brien began working for Bullock in 2009 as communications director for the then-attorney general. He ran Bullock’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign and became the deputy chief of staff for the new governor the following year.
No sexual harassment complaints were filed against O’Brien when he was working for Bullock, Abel said.
O’Brien started work at City Hall, as deputy chief of staff, on Jan. 24, 2016, and was promoted to acting chief of staff in early 2017. He served in that capacity until the end of that year, following de Blasio’s re-election, when he became a senior adviser to the mayor.
In February 2018, two women accused Mr. O’Brien of sexual harassment and he was forced to quit, although he remained on the payroll until late March. But City Hall at the time made no announcement about O’Brien’s departure or the reason for it.
When reached for comment on Monday, O’Brien issued a statement nearly identical to one that he released after the circumstances of his departure from City Hall were recently disclosed, blaming alcohol abuse for making “horrible decisions.”
“There’s no excuse for what I’ve done. I’m embarrassed and ashamed,” he said. “No one deserves to be treated that way. I’ve apologized to the people I’ve hurt and will continue to do so because I am truly sorry.”