April 4, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Council Member Barry Grodenchik issued a statement today addressing allegations of sexual harassment, including a claim that he inappropriately touched a female staffer.
Grodenchik, who represents a district in northeast Queens, has been accused of giving “unwelcome attention” to a Council staffer over the past year, including kissing her on the cheek and talking about her weight, according to Council Member Steven Matteo, who discussed the allegations during a meeting of the Standards and Ethics Committee earlier today.
The Committee has begun formal disciplinary proceedings and Grodenchik has been removed from the budget negotiating committee by Speaker Corey Johnson. According to Grodenchik’s statement, he has also been removed as Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
In his statement, Grodenchik, while apologizing for having made anyone feel uncomfortable, refers to the alleged harassment as a one time incident involving brief handshakes and hugs with several people after finalizing important legislation.
“I have since been the subject of a complaint that this action made an individual uncomfortable,” Grodenchik wrote, later adding, “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 then turned his focus to slamming Johnson, calling the Speaker’s decision to strip him from his chairship an “over-reaction with an excessive punishment that is harmful to this body.” He also cited his many years of public service, having both worked for and supervised many women without any problems.
“Harassment is a real issue that we need to address, but we have to have some common sense and reasonableness about what is intended by someone’s actions,” Grodenchik said, adding, “I will certainly take the lesson of what has been brought to my attention and use it to grow as a person, but 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 Standards and Ethics Committee will soon present Grodenchik with formal charges. After a disciplinary hearing, the panel may recommend sanctions if it is found that Grodenchik has violated the City Council’s harassment rules.