Sanctions issued against McLaughlin after sexual harassment allegation

November 29, 2017 06:33 PM

Outgoing Republican State Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin has been formally sanctioned for asking a female staffer for nude photos.

McLaughlin is calling this a "political witch hunt," a parting shot at his reputation since he's leaving in a month to take his post as Rensselaer County executive.


McLaughlin says he found out he was formally sanctioned through the media. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie accepting the recommendations from the Assembly Ethics Committee.

This stems from the committee's investigation into allegations that McLaughlin asked an Assembly female staffer for nude photos and that he lied to investigators and also violated instructions not to leak any of the information.

"This is almost like a second bite out of the apple. You didn't commit sexual harassment. However, we're going to try to nail you on something anyway. It's ridiculous and it's a political witch hunt," said McLaughlin. "It's almost like we're finding you guilty after we found you innocent. It's absurd and I'm not taking it."

McLaughlin says the case was closed at first, but as soon as he pointed out that there were some leaks coming from the committee that they reopened the case.

The committee says the leaks were coming from him about the case, not from the committee.

WEB EXTRA: Full interview with Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, not seen on TV.

McLaughlin issued 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."


More information:

Sanction letters against Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin

McLaughlin statement to committee

Letter from state Ethics Committee saying there was no finding of a violation

Letter to Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares inquiring about potential violations of civil rights laws against Assemblyman McLaughlin by New York City Attorney Rick Rossein


WNYT Staff

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