UPDATE Thursday, November 30
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, now the Rensselaer County Executive-elect, is denying all allegations of sexual harassment and says the Assembly's Ethics Committee is being used as a political tool.
McLaughlin is facing sanctions from the Assembly in connection with a 2016 incident in which the Republican lawmaker is accused of asking an Assembly staff member for nude photos. He told WGY's Chuck and Kelly the accusation is untrue.
"When you get accused of this stuff, you go, what the heck are they talking about," McLaughlin said. "You start racking your brain of every single person you've spoken to in this chamber. Nothing happened."
An 8-member Assembly Ethics Committee determined that McLaughlin revealed the name of the woman in question to another person, who then told others.
"It didn't happen," McLaughlin told WGY's Chuck and Kelly. "I spent a year and a ton of money trying to clear my name. And then just trying to get a second bite at the apple. I didn't reveal any names."
The panel also found that McLaughlin did not tell the truth when he said he didn't know who was making the accusations against him.
A podcast of the full interview is up at the Chuck and Kelly page of WGY.com.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is implementing sanctions against Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin for workplace harassment that were recommended by the State Assembly's Ethics and Guidance Committee.
The sanctions follow an investigation by an outside counsel into allegations that McLaughlin, now the Rensselaer County Executive-elect, made lewd comments to a female Assembly employee.
They include a letter of admonition on behalf of the entire Assembly, stating that McLaughlin violated the chamber's no-harassment policy.
In addition, he's being ordered to cease revealing the name of the woman in question and details of the allegation, which included a request for nude photographs. He's also precluded from having any interns working in his Assembly or district office.
The sanctions specifically are:
- A letter of admonition be issued publicly to Assemblymember McLaughlin by the Speaker on behalf of the entire Assembly, enumerating the findings of the Committee and stating that Assemblymember McLaughlin's conduct violated the Assembly's Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation as it pertains to sexual harassment and confidentiality, and is consistent with the standards of conduct to which Members of the Assembly should be held;
- Assemblymember McLaughlin be directed to cease revealing the name of the complainant and details of the allegations and investigation;
- Assemblymember McLaughlin be precluded from having any interns working in his Assembly or district office, and that the prohibition applies to interns assigned by the Assembly as well as any interns that might be engaged through unofficial channels.
A 4th recommendation, that he reimburse the Assembly for the cost of sensitivity training, is not being implemented by Speaker Carl Heastie.
McLaughlin released the following statement:
"In what can only be described as a pathetic political hit job, a despicable element the New York State Assembly sunk to a new low when it used its Committee on Ethics and Guidance as a political weapon to release untrue, baseless and legally infirm allegations against me in an attempt to negatively impact my career as a public servant.
First, I categorically deny that I engaged in any sexual misconduct or violated any Assembly policy. After fully participating in the initial committee process on this identical issue, I received a letter from the Assembly dated June 23, 2017, in which this Committee sent a letter to the Assembly Speaker stating that “there was no finding of a violation” of any Assembly policy (see attached letter). Despite this finding from several months ago, the renegade committee engaged in this unlawful conduct, which was in my view illegal.
As any lawmaker or their legal counsel should understand, New York Civil Rights Law section 73 is a McCarthy Era statute that is designed to protect the rights of any person who is subjected to an inquiry from a government committee that might illegally wield its power to defame and bully citizens, and leak information. The actions of this committee and its legal counsel are in my view exactly the kind of illegal conduct the law was designed to prevent. Nonetheless, it appears the committee knowingly violated the law.
Prior to this renegade committee’s actions, several weeks ago, on October 31, 2017, I instructed my attorney to report this potential criminal conduct to the Office of the Albany County District Attorney. This complaint is based on a violation of New York State Civil Rights Law section 73, a misdemeanor, a law designed to protect citizens from having their reputations ruined by wayward government committees.
Together with this media statement, in addition to the letter from the Assembly confirming there was no finding of sexual misconduct, I am also publicly releasing my sworn statement to the Committee and the letter sent last month from my attorney to District Attorney Soares (see attached).
Throughout my entire career I have not been shy to speak truth to power and battle for the people against deeply entrenched interests in Albany. I fully understood that by doing so, the entire weight of government power would come down on someone like me. However, I have never been deterred and I will not be deterred now. And, I will continue to speak truth to power -- louder than ever -- in my new role as the Rensselaer County Executive.
Frankly, thanks to the support of a majority of the citizens of Rensselaer County, I am especially excited to go to work for them and leave behind the deeply and perhaps hopelessly corrupted New York State government.
It is my sincere hope that by shining a light on this situation, and previously reporting this situation to District Attorney Soares, that he and other law enforcement officials will actively investigate and start to restore trust in government in the State of New York. For this, the road ahead is very long, but let it start today."
Photo: Steve McLaughlin's Facebook