Senate president’s husband to seek alcohol treatment following sexual misconduct allegations

  • State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, of Amherst, left, stands outside his Statehouse office in Boston on Friday as he responds to a report of sexual misconduct allegations against his husband Bryon Hefner. M.J. TIDWELL

For the Gazette
Sunday, December 10, 2017

BOSTON — Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, of Amherst, said Dec. 1 that he is “shocked and devastated” by sexual misconduct allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner, who he said will soon begin treatment for alcohol dependence.

“Any time there are allegations of harassment or assault, we should all be shocked and devastated,” Rosenberg said quietly, looking down at the podium and his notes as he addressed some two dozen reporters circled outside his office. “Our hearts must go out to anyone who has been hurt and I encourage anyone, anywhere, anytime to come forward.” He did not answer any questions during his brief appearance, and he did not address whether he is considering resignation.

The Senate tentatively scheduled a formal session for Monday to begin the process of appointing an independent special investigator to lead a probe into the allegations surrounding Hefner, according to a joint statement late Friday from Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler of Worcester, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, and Republican Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester.

Chandler and Tarr “will not be coordinating or discussing anything pertaining to this matter with the Senate President and his staff,” the senators wrote.

The chamber was expected to adopt an order that Chandler preside over the Senate for all matters relating to the investigation. Rosenberg would continue to preside over other Senate business. Rosenberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Though Rosenberg said he is “never one to shy away from questions,” because of the pending investigation he said he has been advised not to answer any questions regarding the allegations against Hefner, which were first reported by The Boston Globe and include grabbing several men’s genitals, groping a man under his shorts at a fundraiser and kissing a man against his will. Rosenberg said he looks forward to fully cooperating with the investigation.

“This has been the most difficult time in my political life and in my personal life,” Rosenberg said, pausing for several long seconds as the clicking of cameras echoed through the crowded Statehouse corridor. “The last 24 hours have been heartbreaking and difficult. I spent most of those hours,” he added, pausing again, “processing those allegations. And I will continue to do so even as Bryon prepares to enter treatment.”

He said, “Bryon is seeking professional help for alcohol dependence, which will include his being admitted to an in-patient treatment center shortly.”

Hefner was accused of sexual harassment and assault by four men who provided their accounts to the Globe anonymously because they feared Hefner’s influence over Rosenberg and Senate business and how that might affect their careers.

The Globe reported that the men all worked on Beacon Hill at the time of the alleged assaults, and included a legislative aide, a lobbyist and a public policy advocate.

All said they did not come forward or report the assaults because they feared repercussions in their jobs and relationships at the Statehouse, and one said he respected Rosenberg’s policies and did not want the allegations to reflect negatively on him.

“We at the Senate maintain a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and will always encourage people to come forward to any authority they feel comfortable with, without any fear of retaliation,” Rosenberg said at the press conference. “If Bryon claimed to have influence over the Senate or my decisions, he should not have said that. It is simply not true.”

Rosenberg, 68, and Hefner, 30, have been together since 2008 when Hefner took a summer job in Rosenberg’s office. They were married in September 2016.

Controversy in 2014

Hefner first stirred controversy in 2014, when the Globe reported accusations that he had posted mocking tweets about outgoing Senate President Therese Murray of Plymouth and boasted about the power he would soon yield over Senate affairs when his then-fiancé Rosenberg took her place.

Rosenberg responded by sending a letter to his colleagues that said he enforces a “firewall” between his private life and the business of the Senate.

In a statement issued to the Globe through his attorney, Hefner said he was shocked to learn of the “anonymous and hurtful” allegations, some of which regard events that took place in 2015.

“To my knowledge, no one has complained to me or any political or governmental authority about these allegations which are now surfacing years afterward,” the statement read. “As one can imagine, it is incredibly difficult to respond to allegations by unnamed and unidentified individuals that involve an extended period of time, particularly in the current environment.”

Following another Globe report in October that detailed anonymous allegations of widespread sexual misconduct at the Statehouse, the Women’s Caucus Sexual Assault Working Group called for implementation of a five-step action plan that includes mandatory sexual harassment training for all state employees.

M.J. Tidwell writes for the Gazette from the Boston University Statehouse Program. Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.