Outspoken Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin was sanctioned Wednesday by Speaker Carl Heastie for workplace harassment after the recommendation from a bipartisan Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee.
Heastie issued a letter of admonition saying the assemblyman's conduct violated the chamber's policy prohibiting harassment, discrimination, and retaliation as it pertains to sexual harassment and confidentiality. McLaughlin is directed to stop revealing the name of the individual who complained, along with any details of the allegations and investigation, and is barred from having interns work for him. The outgoing legislator recently won the race for Rensselaer County Executive and will leave the chamber officially on December 31.
The Ethics Committee wrote in a letter to the speaker that McLaughlin engaged in sexual harassment by asking a female employee of the chamber for nude photos, was not truthful when he told the investigator he didn't know who was making the allegations and then revealed the name of the complainant and details of the harassment to another Assembly employee.
McLaughlin, a frequent guest on Fred Dicker's radio show on Talk1300, vehemently denied the claims when he spoke again to him this morning in an interview.
"I did not reveal the name of anybody at all," he said. "There's no proof of that. They're just making it up as they go along." He added, "This is a political witch-hunt and I'm not lying down taking it."
The Rensselaer County resident went on to say that his lawyer wrote Albany County District Attorney David Soares a letter last month saying his civil rights were being violated by the committee. He explained further Wednesday afternoon when he released this 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."
McLaughlin made news back in 2013 when he compared Andrew Cuomo to Adolf Hitler when discussing the controversial NY SAFE ACT, a gun-control measure passed not long after the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Assemblyman McLaughlin said this will not affect him as he prepares to take the job as Rensselaer County Executive on January 1.