New York, NY– City Council candidate Micah Kellner just lost one of his key endorsements after allegations that he sexually harassed two of his staffers surfaced earlier this month. The SEIU, a key labor union, has withdrawn their support for Assemblyman Kellner in light of the allegations.
Kellner is accused of sexually harassing two staffers, including making unwanted sexual advances towards one of his male staffers. The man confronted Kellner, but he was alienated by the Assemblyman and later quit, the New York Daily News reported.
It appears that Kellner is an equal opportunity harasser, since one of his accusers was a female aide who he exchanged sexually explicit chats with online.
The past allegations against Kellener surfaced last month when the New York Times uncovered documents that showed an attorney for the Assembly kept the allegations secret in 2009. Furthermore, the accusations against Kellner were never forwarded to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics even though they issued a broad subpoena for all sexual harassment allegations during an inquiry into Brooklyn Democrat Vito Lopez, which was settled last year.
The newly uncovered allegations are not helpful to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is trying to repair his damaged reputation, after the Vito Lopez scandal. Silver is accused of keeping the numerous harassment complaints against Lopez secret and negotiating a secret settlement with one of Lopez’s accusers.
Michael Whyland,a spokesman for the Assembly Speaker, told the New York Times that Silver forwarded the complaints against Kellner to the Assembly Ethics Committee. This leaves the JCPE to wonder if there are other sexual harassment accusations that are being covered.
Silver also said he was not aware of the allegations against Kellner until earlier this summer and immediately forwarded the complaints to the Assembly Ethics Committee which is separate from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
The ethics commission has now subpoenaed several assembly Democrats along with Kellner’s former chief of staff, Eliyanna Kaiser, who says she welcomes the new inquiry.
Even though Kaiser brought the harassment of one of Kellner’s aides to the attention of Assembly staff and was able to produce sexually suggestive chats between an aide and Kellner, Assembly attorney Bill Collins decided not to launch a formal inquiry.
Kellner apologized for his behavior and issued a statement in which he said he did not have knowledge of the allegations against him, the New York Times reported.
“If I had been aware that documents pertaining to me had been submitted to an Assembly counsel four years ago, I would have immediately requested an investigation. I welcome such an investigation now and I will cooperate fully,” Kellner’s statement read.
Apologies, however, are not enough for the SEIU who, this week, withdrew their support for Kellner’s City Council campaign. They have also called for him to withdraw from the race.
This is the second sexually charged scandal in New York politics this summer. The first scandal involves married Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner who has admitted to sexting with several women he met online.