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The Times
  • NY lawmaker accused of harassment retires

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  • BUFFALO — A Buffalo-area Assemblyman accused of sexually harassing female staffers announced Sunday that he’ll retire while continuing to defend himself in court against allegations he calls false.
    Dennis Gabryszak has been accused by seven former and current employees of making unwanted advances and other abusive behavior. It’s the latest in a string of legislative sex harassment cases and public corruption scandals in Albany in recent years.
    The 62-year-old Democrat announced his retirement Sunday without giving an effective date. He said his decision was based on the impact the scandal has had on his family and the Assembly’s work.
    In recent notices of claim against Gabryszak, he is accused of grabbing one woman and trying to kiss her and of telling another during a 2012 incident that, “You’re so hot, you know what I want to do with you.” The notices are the first step toward a lawsuit.
    In his statement Sunday, Gabryszak acknowledged engaging in “mutual banter and exchanges” that were “inappropriate in the workplace.” But he said it never rose to the level of sexual harassment.
    Gabryszak’s announcement came a day before the Assembly was set to begin its first full day of the 2014 legislative session Monday afternoon.
    Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement Sunday that Gabryszak’s decision to step down was right.
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that he had asked Gabryszak to either deny the allegations or resign.
    “Today, he has given us his answer,” Cuomo said. “Our representatives in elected office can and should be held to a higher standard — especially at a time when the Legislature’s ethics are being questioned and the confidence of their constituents being undermined.”
    The Assembly has been rocked by a series of sex harassment scandals in recent years.
    Silver, a Democrat, faced blistering criticism for using $103,000 in public money for a secret settlement to end sex harassment claims against Vito Lopez, a former Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn. Lopez, who resigned last year, has denied sexually harassing anyone.
    More recently, the Assembly ethics committee said its investigation showed Democratic Assemblyman Micah Kellner of Manhattan violated the house’s sexual harassment policy by making inappropriate comments to staff members in 2009 and 2011.
    Kellner denies the accusations against him and said he would appeal the committee’s finding.
    Gabryszak is a former town supervisor in Cheektowaga who was elected to the Assembly in November 2006. His Assembly biography says he has been married for 37 years and has two children.
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