A Manhattan assemblyman accused of directing inappropriate online comments at a female staffer says he is on board with an apparent investigation into his conduct and the Assembly’s handling of the complaint.
Assemblyman Micah Kellner, D-Manhattan, recently acknowledged making untoward remarks during online chats with the employee four years ago. But the situation was only made public in recent weeks as the Assembly’s Democratic leadership continues to receive criticism for its handling of various sexual harassment allegations.
Late Wednesday, several news outlets reported the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics had launched an investigation into the Kellner allegations, including why the Assembly didn’t hand over documents related to it when it was subpoenaed in a separate investigation earlier this year. A spokesman for JCOPE, the state ethics board, declined comment.
“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,” Kellner said in a statement issued by his office. “I welcome such an investigation now and I will cooperate fully.”
Kellner is running for New York City Council this year, as is former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, who resigned after JCOPE released a report detailing numerous sexual harassment allegations against the one-time powerful politician. Lopez has maintained his innocence.
The latest probe is the latest threat to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Manhattan Democrat who has led the chamber since 1994. Silver has received extensive criticism for his handling of initial allegations against Lopez, which were settled with taxpayer money without being referred for investigation, as well as previous claims made against former top aide Michael Boxley.
Boxley was arrested in the Capitol in 2003 on a felony rape charge and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual misconduct; Silver had backed Boxley when a previous accuser had accused him of rape.
Silver spokesman Michael Whyland has said Silver was not made aware of the allegations against Kellner until recently. William Collins, the Assembly attorney who took the complaint against Kellner in 2009, was recently forced from the office, though he remains on the payroll until next week.