Amid husband's sex-probe turmoil, Rosenberg steps away as Senate president

Harriette Chandler speaks at a lecturn

Harriette Chandler speaks at a lecturn

The Massachusetts State Senate has a new leader.

After meeting privately for more than eight hours, senators formally elected Harriette Chandler, the Senate majority leader, as Rosenberg's replacement for the span of the investigation.

Lawmakers also voted Monday to refer the case to the Senate Ethics Committee and authorize the committee to hire a special investigator to conduct an independent probe.

The outside probe will hone in on whether Rosenberg violated any Senate rules in connection with allegations published by the Boston Globe that his husband, Bryon Hefner, sexually assaulted or harassed four men while boasting of his influence.

The Boston Globe reported last week several men had accused the Hefner of sexual assault or harassment.

Rosenberg, who took a leave from his president post Monday, had claimed almost three years ago when he assumed the presidency that he had placed a "firewall" between his husband and the Senate after Hefner bragged about influence in the Senate.

WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke this morning with the new Senate leader.

"That was the standard that was set by the Senate president three years ago, and I believe that is what we should be looking at", she said. She is the second woman to be Massachusetts Senate president, following Therese Murray, who served until 2015. He maintained that his husband had no influence over his policy decisions or actions by the Senate.

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Attorney General Maura Healey and Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, both Democrats, said Monday they were prepared to launch an investigation and said anyone with information should feel free to contact either of their offices. The men, who were not named by the Globe, said they did not report the abuse partly because they did not want to alienate the powerful Senate leader.

The two said in a written statement Monday that they are committed to providing every survivor of sexual assault with what they called "a safe, respectful, victim-centered environment".

Rosenberg will remain a senator during the investigation.

The Senate is expected to appoint an independent investigator whose focus likely would be on whether Rosenberg knew about Hefner's alleged behavior, or if Hefner had any clout when it came to matters before the Senate.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, through a spokeswoman, called Rosenberg's decision to step down "the right one".

Rosenberg, he said, is innocent until proven otherwise.

Rosenberg announced earlier Monday he would take a leave of absence from his responsibilities as Senate president.

The scenario that unfolded on Monday was without modern precedent in the Massachusetts Senate.

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