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Cuomo: Assemblymen Must Deny Harassment Allegations Or Resign

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that if two state lawmakers are guilty of sexual harassment claims against them, they need to resign.

On Monday, the state Ethics Committee found that state Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) violated the assembly’s sexual harassment policy by making inappropriate comments to staff members in 2009 and 2011.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Kellner would be removed from his post as chairman of the committee on libraries.

Silver said Kellner also will not be permitted to have interns working in his office, and he will be required to attend sexual harassment training.

A spokesman for Kellner said Tuesday that Kellner does not accept the sanctions imposed by Silver and will appeal. The spokesman said a public hearing must be held in accordance with the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Earlier this month, a separate sexual harassment complaint was filed against upstate Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (D-Cheektowaga.)

Complaints were unveiled from three former female staffers who worked at Gabryszak’s legislative offices – including the state Capitol in Albany, the Times Union reported. The complaints were mailed to Assembly Speaker Silver and preserved the right to sue within a year, the newspaper reported.

In a statement Tuesday, Cuomo had harsh words toward both assemblymen.

“The latest reports of sexual harassment in the Assembly should be the last straw,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This pattern of behavior is repugnant by every standard and directly contradicts the policies the Assembly has advanced for the last 20 years.”

Cuomo said if Kellner and Gabryszak are guilty of the allegations, they must resign.

“Assemblymember Micah Kellner’s conduct, confirmed by the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee’s investigation, has no place in New York State government. It is time for him to immediately deny these allegations or resign. Likewise, Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak must immediately deny the allegations against him or resign,” Cuomo said in the statement. “If they do not resign, the Assembly must send a clear message that they do not tolerate this abuse of women and should seriously consider moving to expel them if they seek to return this coming session.

“Enough is enough,” Cuomo continued. “It’s a new year; let’s start with a clean slate.”

In July, Kellner said he deeply regretted an incident with a young female staffer to whom he sent sexually suggestive messages on Facebook in 2009. The accusation, including 15 pages of transcribed online chats, was reported at the time to longtime Assembly lawyer Bill Collins.

“Over four years ago, for a few weeks while I was still single, I exchanged instant messages with a female member of my staff that were flirtatious,” Kellner said in a statement. “It was inappropriate. I was wrong and it was stupid. When I was told that my staffer felt the messages were unprofessional, I immediately stopped and regretted placing her in that position. I was sorry then and I am sorry now.”

In the allegations against Gabryszak, former communications director Annalise Freling, alleged in the complaint that Gabryszak said he became sexually aroused by seeing her and told her, “You’re so hot, you know what I want to do with you.” The complaint claimed the remarks led Freling to have a “panic attack.”

Another woman, Kimberly Snickles — who also served as communications director — claimed that Gabryszak “made numerous sexual jokes” about her at a staff lunch meeting and invited her to sleep in his hotel room, in an incident that made her “so upset… that she called her boyfriend and mother in tears,” the complaint said.

Snickles also alleged that Gabryzsak “regularly told her and a co-worker that they should wear bikinis to his events” and made numerous other sexually charged comments, the complaint said.

A third complainant, former legislative director Jamie Campbell, claimed that Gabryszak “requested her to go for massages with him” on several occasions, and told her, “If I don’t how you look, I can fire you,” the complaint said.

Freling and Campbell also claimed the lawmaker sent them a video message of what appeared to be himself sitting in a bathroom stall receiving oral sex, the complaint said.

All three women decided they “had no alternative other than to leave their employment,” the complaint said.

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