Pressure began to mount Wednesday on former Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg to resign from the Senate.
An explosive new report found that Rosenberg had violated the trust placed in him to lead the Senate by giving his husband "unfettered" access to his email and failing to intervene when he knew or should have known his husband had sexually and racially harassed staff and others.
Five months after Rosenberg stepped down from the presidency over allegations made against his husband, the Senate Ethics Committee released a detailed, 77-page report concluding that while Rosenberg may not have violated any formal rules, his failure to intervene with his husband Bryon Hefner had "destructive consequences" for the Senate.
Hefner has been indicted for sexually harassing four men with business on Beacon Hill, but the findings in the report go beyond those allegations. The report includes detailed accounts of Hefner using Rosenberg's email to send official letters and threatening and harassing staff.
Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey quickly called on Rosenberg to resign his seat, but senators left for the day without any clear indication whether they believed stripping Rosenberg of most of his powers as a senator would suffice.
While investigators did not determine that Rosenberg was aware of any of the physical harassment, the senator was aware of inappropriate comments made by Hefner to him and others, according to investigators. Rosenberg was also said to have violated Senate policy by giving Hefner the password to his computer from 2009 through February 2017, giving Hefner access to his email and other confidential information.
Rosenberg told investigators he did this so that Hefner would have access to his schedule, and only terminated his access in March 2017 after two staffers detected that Hefner had sent email posing as Rosenberg. Lead investigator Anthony Fuller, a partner at Hogan Lovells, said that the "firewall" between his husband and the Senate promised by Rosenberg to his colleagues before he was elected president had been "non-existent."
"We found the firewall was non-existent to the extent it was intended and understood," Fuller said at a press conference.
Rosenberg's attorney, according to the report, said the firewall was never intended to be an "impenetrable barrier," and if so would have been a standard that no other senator is held to with their spouses.
Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Michael Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat, said the findings in the report "demonstrate a significant failure of judgment and leadership" by Rosenberg in his capacity as the president of the Senate.
"Essentially, Senator Rosenberg failed to protect the Senate from his husband, whom he knew was disruptive, volatile and abusive," Rodrigues said.
Baker, a Republican, and Healey, a Democrat, each called for Rosenberg to immediately resign from the state Senate.
"The Senate's ethics report reveals a deeply disturbing pattern of behavior, making it clear that Senator Rosenberg has compromised the business of the Chamber and trust of his constituents," Baker said in a statement. "For the good of the institution and those who elected him to serve, I believe the Senator needs to resign immediately."
Healey said in her own statement, "It's clear to me that Stan Rosenberg cannot continue to serve in the Senate. I think it's best if he steps down immediately."
Democrat and Republican senators met behind closed doors for five hours Wednesday, where they discussed the report's findings and recommendations but did not reach any conclusions. With private talks expected to resume Thursday morning and a session scheduled in the afternoon, Rosenberg could be using that time to consider whether he wants to force his colleagues to decide how to discipline him, or if he still wants to seek re-election.
Rosenberg's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Senate President Harriette Chandler, who served as majority leader under Rosenberg, called the report "thorough and troubling."
"Like my colleagues, I am taking time tonight to further review the report and the strong recommendations of the Ethics Committee," she said Wednesday. "This has been a trying time for the victims and witnesses in this case, for Senate staff, for Senators, and for the Senate as an institution. I am hopeful that after tomorrow, we can begin turning the page and healing as a body."
The Ethics Committee, which includes senators from both parties, unanimously recommended that Rosenberg be barred for the remainder of this session and the next two-year session from serving as Senate president, in Senate leadership or as chair of any committee. Both Rodrigues and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, however, said it should be up to Rosenberg and his constituents whether he continues to serve in the Senate.
Rodrigues declined to discuss what senators talked about during their caucus Wednesday or if he believed the full Senate would accept the recommendations of the committee. But at least one senator -- Democrat and candidate for Congress Sen. Barbara L'Italien -- repeated her call for Rosenberg to resign.
Hogan Lovells was hired in December by the Senate to conduct the probe and was paid nearly $230,000 last month for its work, which Fuller said included 1,200 hours of labor to interview 45 witnesses and review 250,000 emails and tens of thousands of text messages.
Rosenberg was interviewed for a total of 11 hours over two days before Hefner was criminally indicted, Hogan Lovells said, and cooperated with the investigation.
Investigators found that Rosenberg was aware that Hefner routinely expressed in graphic terms sexual interest in members of the Senate and Senate staff, downloaded and texted images of nude men and male genitalia and inappropriately displayed such images to another senator; and that Hefner expressed a desire to "'roofie' a Senator and make a sex tape."
Hefner had a tendency to send Rosenberg pictures of naked men, including during work hours. Rosenberg told investigators Hefner did this "as a joke or to provoke some kind of reaction" from him.
Rosenberg also told investigators that he told Hefner to stop, in part because on a few occasions he had "accidentally opened a picture of a naked man from Hefner in a meeting and had to quickly hide his phone so other people would not see picture." [sic].
The report details several instances in which Hefner allegedly made sexually- or racially-charged statements to State House staffers, including members of Rosenberg's office. Rosenberg told investigators "that he was well aware of Hefner’s inappropriate and unprofessional behavior toward members of his staff because he witnessed some of it."
In one instance, Hefner allegedly "verbally attacked a staff member using racial epithets." After the incident, the staffer spoke with Rosenberg about it and Rosenberg suggested the staffer file a complaint with the Senate lawyers. No complaint was filed.
The investigators said that Rosenberg "noted that he and his staff believed they were dealing with a mentally ill person who regularly abused alcohol, and their general understanding was that they could not control his behavior."
Fuller said the investigative team interviewed five people who alleged Hefner had made unwanted sexual advances upon them or alleged he had sexually assaulted them. At least two of those people, Fuller said, made complaints about Hefner to lower-level staffers but the complaints never reached Rosenberg.
Two instances -- one around December 2015 and one on Aug. 7, 2017 -- involved Hefner allegedly grabbing and holding onto another man's genitals. Hefner also allegedly "propositioned the policy advocate to have sex with him in a bathroom" during the 2015 incident.
During the summer of 2017, Hefner bumped into a former Senate staffer in the State House and "unbuttoned the former staffer's sweater, making a remark about the former staffer's figure," the report claims.
That incident was reported to "a senior member of Senator Rosenberg’s staff who did not take the complaint seriously, suggesting the former staffer was like a 'doll' and that Hefner did not mean anything inappropriate."
The report also details times that Hefner "verbally criticized and demeaned Senator Rosenberg's staff members," including times when Rosenberg was himself present.
Around July 4, 2016, Hefner allegedly took Rosenberg's cellphone and texted two Rosenberg staff members posing as the Senate president. He wrote to the staffers, "you’re all still failures for your lack of foresight. The Massachusetts senate is the reason Charlie baker [sic] will be reflected [sic]. Lack of foresight, lack of urgency, lack of competence. Sometimes the best person for the job is a straight white man .... Or a whole office full."
Rosenberg later apologized to his staff and told them, "None of us deserve these insulting comments." One Rosenberg staffer told investigators of five or six times that Hefner had sent text messages posing as Rosenberg.
Fuller said the investigators did not turn up any evidence that any other members of the senator were aware or should have known that Hefner had access to Rosenberg's email and cell phone, or that the firewall did not exist.
In April 2017, Hefner is said to have verbally berated a person over the route the person chose to take while driving Rosenberg and Hefner to an event. That person asked not to drive with Hefner anymore and did not drive him again until August 2017, when the National Conference of State Legislators was in Boston.
While driving to an event in the Fenway, Hefner -- who "appeared to be visibly intoxicated" -- is said to have screamed at the driver for the chosen route and screamed at Rosenberg and a Rosenberg staffer when both tried to calm him.
The driver aborted the trip and left Rosenberg, Hefner and the staffer with Rosenberg's car in Cambridge. Before the staffer called a ride service to pick up Rosenberg, Hefner "tried to convince a Cambridge police officer to arrest Senator Rosenberg, but the staff member intervened and the officer left the scene," the report found.
In another incident in December 2014, Rosenberg and Hefner were attending a social event at the home of an unidentified elected official. At one point, according to the report, Rosenberg "saw Hefner show his iPhone to the host and observed the host have a negative reaction."
As they left the gathering, the host whispered to Rosenberg that he needed "to get rid" of Hefner. Once home, Rosenberg asked Hefner what he had shown the host and learned that it had been a photo of a naked man.
Rosenberg told investigators that Hefner was acting out because he had wanted to leave the party earlier and the host had convinced Rosenberg to stay longer.
There was also a group text conversation from about May 2015 in which Hefner texted Rosenberg and a Rosenberg staffer in which he claimed to have sent a sexually explicit video of himself to another man who did not work in the State House and told the staffer to "deal with" the problems that would create.
Hefner allegedly said that he would "destroy" the staff member and that his goal was "to break" the staff member. Hefner later texted Rosenberg and the staffer, "f--k all of u."
Later that year, in November, Hefner allegedly sent a series of texts to a Rosenberg staffer in which he said he planned to run against Rosenberg in the next election to "embarrass him to the point of resignation" and disparaged Rosenberg "in demeaning and profane terms" as a weak and ineffective leader.
Rosenberg has, as recently as last year, described the Senate's approach to sexual harassment as a "zero-tolerance" policy that was strengthened when he came into office, but Tarr on Wednesday said Rosenberg's ineffective response to his husband's behavior was a "breach" of the work environment the Senate had tried to create.
"There was an atmosphere that was intolerable in the Senate, that folks felt threatened by the Senate president's husband, that they felt concerned about their ability to effectively function in this building," Tarr said.
Tarr said that next session he hoped the Senate would also revisit its rules in light of the Ethics report and consider whether anything needs to be changed.
This report was originally published by State House News Service.