Rosenberg denies Senate meddling by Hefner

Rosenberg denies Senate meddling by Hefner

Beacon Hill leader mum on sexual assault charges, says husband seeking treatment for ‘alcohol dependence’

SENATE PRESIDENT STAN ROSENBERG said he was “devastated” by the charges of sexual harassment and assault against his husband, who plans to seek inpatient treatment for “alcohol dependence.”

Rosenberg faced reporters outside his State House office on Friday afternoon a day after Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham reported that four men allege Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted them over the last several years. Three of them said he grabbed their genitals; a fourth said Hefner kissed him against his will.

The story also included allegations that Hefner boasted of the clout he wielded on Beacon Hill through Rosenberg, one of the most powerful players in state government.  Rosenberg expressed confidence that an outside investigation would show his spouse had no influence on the workings of the Senate.

Members of the media wait outside his office for Senate President Stan Rosenberg to address allegations of his husband’s sexual misconduct.

Rosenberg did not address whether he believed the allegations of sexual assault and harassment leveled against Hefner.

“Anytime there are allegations of sexual harassment and assault we should all be shocked and devastated,” Rosenberg said in front of a bank of television cameras and reporters. “Our hearts must go out to anyone who’s been hurt, and I encourage anyone, anywhere, anytime, to come forward.”

He said the Senate maintains a “zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and will always encourage people to come forward to any authority they feel comfortable without any fear of retaliation.”

On Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler announced that an outside “special investigator” will be brought in to examine the matter. There has been no announcement about who will be retained or what the specific scope an investigation would entail.

On Friday evening, a joint statement released by Chandler and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said the process for selecting an outside investigator would begin on Monday. The statement said there would be separate caucuses Monday morning of Senate Democrats and Republicans to discuss how to proceed, followed by a joint caucus of all members at noon.

Chandler and Tarr said they would hold a press availability at 12:30 pm on Monday. A formal session of the Senate is scheduled for 1 pm.

It is hard, at this point, to know what an investigation might uncover. Abraham, in a follow-up piece Friday, said that the four alleged victims – who only shared their accounts with her on the condition that they not be identified in the story – remained unwilling to be named publicly, and said they were unsure whether they would cooperate with a Senate investigator.

Three years ago, Rosenberg said he was imposing a “firewall” between his private life and public duties in reaction to reports that Hefner sent out tweets mocking then-outgoing Senate president Therese Murray and bragged openly of the clout he would wield when Rosenberg took the reins as Senate president in January 2015.

Thursday’s Globe story, however, said that based on interviews with seven people, including several of the alleged victims, Hefner showed a “deep knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the Senate.” The story said Hefner claimed to speak for the Senate president. It also reported that Abraham reviewed messages from Hefner in which he “orders around Rosenberg staffers.”

“I’ve repeatedly made clear that Bryon was to have no influence on what happens in the Senate,” Rosenberg said in his statement to reporters. “He has no influence over policy, the internal operations of the Senate, or any Senate-related business. If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true. And I’m looking forward to fully cooperating with the investigation and look forward to their findings, and I’m confident that investigation will find that Bryon had no influence on the workings of the Senate.”

Rosenberg has given no indication that he is considering resigning from his leadership post or Senate seat. Chandler, in her statement released Thursday night, said Rosenberg has “recused himself from playing any role” in the investigation, but would continue as Senate president.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Rosenberg, 68, and Hefner, 30, met in 2008 when Hefner served as an intern in Rosenberg’s Senate office. Rosenberg said they bonded over their shared background as foster children. Rosenberg said in an interview for this 2014 profile that they began socializing only after Hefner left his office. They got married a little more than a year ago.

Rosenberg said the last 24 hours have been “the most difficult time in my political life and in my personal life.”