Stan Rosenberg: ‘My heart goes out to anyone who may have been hurt’
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg said Friday that his husband, Bryon Hefner, would soon begin treatment for alcoholism as the Senate prepared to name an independent investigator to look into allegations that Hefner sexually abused several men in recent years.
‘‘My heart goes out to anyone who may have been hurt, and I am committed to helping anyone who has been harmed,’’ Rosenberg said in a statement he read to reporters outside his office. ‘‘This has been the most difficult time in my political life, and in my personal life.’’
Rosenberg did not answer any questions during the brief appearance, in which he described himself as ‘‘shocked and devastated’’ to learn of the allegations reported Thursday by The Boston Globe.
‘‘Bryon is seeking professional help for alcohol dependence, which will include his being admitted to an in-patient treatment center shortly,’’ he said.
The Amherst Democrat, the first openly gay leader of either legislative chamber, has served in the Senate since 1991 and as its president since 2015. He asserted Friday that Hefner, a 30-year-old former public relations worker, exerted no influence over the Senate or legislation.
‘‘If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that,’’ said Rosenberg. ‘‘It is simply not true. I am looking forward to fully cooperating with the investigation and look forward to the findings.’’
The Senate tentatively scheduled a formal session for Monday to begin the process of appointing an independent special investigator to lead a probe into the allegations surrounding Hefner, according to a joint statement late Friday from Majority Leader Harriette Chandler, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, and Republican Leader Bruce Tarr.
Chandler and Tarr ‘‘will not be coordinating or discussing anything pertaining to this matter with the Senate President and his staff,’’ the senators wrote.
The chamber was expected to adopt an order that Chandler preside over the Senate for all matters relating to the investigation. Rosenberg would continue to preside over other Senate business.
It was not clear Friday to what extent if any the investigator would have the ability to subpoena witnesses or take sworn testimony.
Rosenberg, 68, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Four men told the Globe they were assaulted by Hefner, three of whom said Hefner grabbed their genitals and one who said Hefner kissed him against his will. The Globe reported the men, who were granted anonymity by the newspaper, said they did not report the encounters because they feared alienating Rosenberg.
The Globe reported that some of the men had professional dealings with the Legislature and alleged that Hefner had cited his clout with Rosenberg.
Hefner has not been charged with any crimes. In a statement to the Globe through his attorney, he said it was difficult to respond to allegations from unnamed people.
Prior to his election as president, Rosenberg promised Senate colleagues he would create a ‘‘firewall’’ between his personal and professional life after reports that Hefner had boasted on social media of his sway with Rosenberg.
One Democratic senator, Barbara L’Italien, of Andover, called Friday for Rosenberg to relinquish his post as leader of the Senate until the investigation was completed.
L’Italien, who recently announced her candidacy for the state’s 3rd congressional district seat, said in a statement that while she has known and respected Rosenberg for 15 years, she believed he should temporary step aside as Senate President ‘‘for the sake of the institution.’’
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey have both indicated their support for the independent investigation.
While it appeared that Beacon Hill was largely trying to stay clear of turning the controversy into a partisan affair, the state’s Republican party on Friday began sending news releases to local media outlets around the state, challenging Democratic senators in those districts to answer questions about their support for the Rosenberg.
The party termed as ‘‘dubious’’ Rosenberg’s claim he had no prior knowledge of his husband’s alleged behavior.
Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.