May 15, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
In an unexpected reversal, City Council Member Barry Grodenchik admitted to sexually harassing a City Council staffer for more than a year after initially denying the allegations and vowing to fight against them.
Grodenchik, who copped to the accusations during a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, also resigned from his chairmanship of the City Council Parks Committee.
“I understand that my actions caused the Council staff member to suffer embarrassment, stress and discomfort and emotional distress and that her work environment was adversely and negatively affected,” Grodenchik said during the hearing. “I am deeply sorry for my conduct and for any harm suffered by the Council staff member as a result of my conduct.”
The Queens representative was accused in early April of having made several unwanted advances and having inappropriate conversations with a female staffer. The staffer said Grodenchik repeatedly singled her out for hugs and kisses and made comments about her weight.
Grodenchik initially defended himself in a statement, stating that he did not believe he had been inappropriate. He also cited only one instance where he had hugged the staffer in question.
“For me, as is true for many of my colleagues, a hug is a common greeting for people I have known for a long time, but as others do not feel that way, I will certainly be more sensitive to that in the future,” Grodenchik wrote in the statement.
At the time, Grodenchik called Speaker Corey Johnson’s plans to strip him of his position as chair of the Parks Committee an “overreaction.”
“I will not allow the good name my parents gave to me to be dragged through the mud for this single action which, as the Speaker well knows, was never intended to make anyone uncomfortable,” the statement read.
Late last month, former federal prosecutor Carrie H. Cohen, who previously led the corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was hired to prosecute Grodenchik for the alleged sexual harassment. Cohen reportedly gathered a wealth of evidence over the past two weeks.
After admitting to the harassment, Grodenchik agreed to undergo sexual harassment training at his own expense.
Grodenchik is now the third Council Member to face disciplinary action this year for controversial behaviour. Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, who made homophobic comments, and Council Member Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn, who made anti-Palestine remarks, have also faced punishment.