Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, has blasted accusations that he forcibly kissed a former employee at a bar in Albany in 2015.
The former staffer, Erica Vladimer, told the Huffington Post that the incident happened on April 1, 2015 at an Albany bar. Klein and his staffers were celebrating the passage of the New York State budget, according to the report. Vladimer and Klein then exited the bar to smoke a cigarette.
“All of a sudden there was a hand on the back of my head and he shoved his tongue down my throat,” Vladimer said in her interview with the HuffPost. “In my head it lasted forever, I don’t think it lasted even three seconds.”
Vladimer, who worked for Klein as a policy analyst and counsel, resigned from the job a month later. A spokeswoman told several publications that Vladimer was planning on leaving well before the alleged incident occurred. Vladimer told the HuffPost she kept silent about the alleged incident out of shame. Her first thoughts, she said, was hoping that Klein’s long-time girlfriend and IDC college, state senator Dianne Savino, who was present at the bar but not outside it when the alleged incident occurred, did not see the kiss.
Two weeks before the story broke, Vladimer had approached state senator Liz Krueger, an outspoken supporter of women’s rights, to tell her about the alleged incident. Krueger, a Democrat, told The New York Times she found Vladimer’s story credible.
Before the article was published, Klein organized a news conference where he denied the charges, saying he hired an attorney to investigate the matter. The lawyers from the Manhattan law firm of Loeb & Loeb insist that Klein and Vladimer were in full view outside the bar given the size of the windows. He has no plans of stepping down as the influential leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight Democrats who caucus with Republicans.
A memo circulated by Klein’s attorneys to the media states that,”Of the female staff members we interviewed at the Independent Democratic Conference, none reported ever having felt uncomfortable, unsafe or threatened by Sen. Klein. They noted that Sen. Klein has been at the forefront of equal rights for women, hired many women in the past, given them senior roles, opportunities and significant responsibilities, and has maintained a safe work environment for female staff.”
This is the first time Klein has ever been accused of sexual assault since taking office as an Assemblyman representing Bedford Park in 1994.
The issue caught the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is attempting to pass stricter policies on sexual harassment, said in a statement that, “Every allegation of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. I agree with Senator Klein and with Senator Krueger that this disturbing situation should be investigated, and I believe it should be done immediately and independently.”