NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Buffalo-area Assemblyman accused of sexually harassing female staffers announced Sunday that he’ll retire while continuing to defend himself in court against allegations he calls false.
Dennis Gabryszak has been accused by seven former and current employees of making unwanted advances and other abusive behavior. It’s the latest in a string of legislative sex harassment cases and public corruption scandals in Albany in recent years.
The 62-year-old Democrat announced his retirement Sunday without giving an effective date. He said his decision was based on the impact the scandal has had on his family and the Assembly’s work.
In recent notices of claim against Gabryszak, he is accused of grabbing one woman and trying to kiss her and of telling another during a 2012 incident that, “You’re so hot, you know what I want to do with you.” The notices are the first step toward a lawsuit.
In his statement Sunday, Gabryszak admitted to “mutual banter and exchanges” that were “inappropriate in the workplace.” But he said it never rose to the level of sexual harassment.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement Sunday that Gabryszak’s decision to step down was right.
“The allegations concerning Mr. Gabryszak’s behavior have been extremely disturbing. The citizens of the 143rd Assembly District deserve to be represented by someone who will be a strong voice for their community and focused on getting things done. As I have said from the start, sexual harassment has no place in the State Assembly and it will not be tolerated. Mr. Gabryszak’s decision to resign his Assembly seat is the right one,” Speaker Silver said.
On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying that the alleged harassment had no place in the New York State government:
“Following the latest reports of horrific behavior in the Assembly against Assemblymember Gabryszak, I asked him to either deny the allegations or resign immediately. Today, he has given us his answer. Our representatives in elected office can and should be held to a higher standard — especially at a time when the Legislature’s ethics are being questioned and the confidence of their constituents being undermined. This kind of alleged behavior has no place in New York State government or any other office in society. My thoughts are with the alleged victims and Mr. Gabrysak’s family during this difficult time.”
The Assembly has been rocked by a series of sex harassment scandals in recent years.
Silver, a Democrat, faced blistering criticism for using $103,000 in public money for a secret settlement to end sex harassment claims against Vito Lopez, a former Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn. Lopez, who resigned last year, has denied sexually harassing anyone.
More recently, the Assembly ethics committee said its investigation showed Democratic Assemblyman Micah Kellner of Manhattan violated the house’s sexual harassment policy by making inappropriate comments to staff members in 2009 and 2011.
Kellner denies the accusations against him and said he would appeal the committee’s finding.
Gabryszak is a former town supervisor in Cheektowaga who was elected to the Assembly in November 2006. His Assembly biography says he has been married for 37 years and has two children.
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