Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler expressed confidence earlier this week in the integrity of an ongoing sexual harassment investigation in the Senate, in the wake of reports that confidentiality concerns may keep some victims from coming forward.
The Senate Ethics Committee in December brought on a legal team from the firm Hogan Lovells to investigate whether former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg violated the chamber’s rules in connection with allegations that his husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted men with business pending on Beacon Hill and claimed influence over Senate proceedings.
WGBH and The Boston Globe have reported that some witnesses are hesitant to work with the investigators because any subpoenas must go through the Ethics Committee, potentially making the panel’s six senators aware of the identities of people involved.
“I don’t have any problem with the integrity of the investigation,” Chandler said when asked about the reports. “I think that the Ethics Committee is doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, which is to turn this over to the investigation group, and that’s exactly what’s going on.
“As long as this building is not a safe place for [everybody], then it’s not safe for us to continue to do what we’ve done in the past. In other words, we know that we have got to go through with this process, we know that we have to make certain that this is a safe place, and I think we, hopefully, at the end of this, will find out what we have to do to make it safe.”
Chandler, who served as majority leader when Rosenberg was president, said the committee has not used its subpoena power at this point and has not granted subpoena power to the outside investigators.
“As long as they come forward voluntarily, they will have full confidentiality,” she said of potential witnesses and victims. “That’s what this whole program is about, to make sure that they have total and complete confidentiality.”
On Dec. 18, when the Ethics Committee announced it would retain Hogan Lovells to serve as special investigator, the committee said it had a “commitment to protect the identities of victims and witnesses who choose to cooperate with the investigation.”
The Senate elected Chandler as its acting president on Dec. 4 after huddling in private for hours, and that same night adopted an order laying out some ground rules for the investigation.
The order stipulates that the investigators report “shall maintain as confidential the identity of any individual providing information to the investigator, unless the individual specifically consents to being identified.” It also authorizes the Ethics Committee to “require by summons the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books and papers and such other records” it deems to be relevant.
Chaired by Sen. Michael Rodrigues, the Senate Ethics Committee’s other members are Democrats William Brownsberger, Cynthia Creem and Cindy Friedman, and Republicans Richard Ross and Bruce Tarr.