- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A state assemblyman previously admonished over allegations of sexual harassment faces the loss of his staff and offices after an ethics committee found he continued to violate that house’s sexual harassment policy.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat, will lose his Albany and district offices and staff allocation by the end of the month, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Wednesday.

“I hereby admonish and severely reprimand you on behalf of the New York State Assembly and its members,” Silver, also a Manhattan Democrat, wrote in a letter to Kellner on Tuesday.

Kellner’s conduct violated the Assembly’s policies and were inconsistent with its standards, Silver wrote.

Kellner called the allegations unsubstantiated and said he’ll immediately appeal.

Also Tuesday, a federal judge in Manhattan refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Silver filed by two women alleging he violated their civil rights by failing to protect them from improper verbal and physical advances by former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat who was their boss. Victoria Burhans and Chloe Rivera said Silver for years “created a de facto policy or custom in which sexual harassment by senior officials … was tolerated or condoned.”

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres wrote that the women “provide sufficient factual support to show how Silver may have plausibly caused (their) injury” by alleging he was aware of prior complaints “and concealed them through confidential settlements and hushed reassignments.” She scheduled a pre-trial conference for July 2.

Following ethics committee findings upholding the complaints, Silver in 2012 imposed sanctions on Lopez, including loss of a committee chairmanship and some staff, and Lopez later resigned.

“I think ultimately the facts will come out in the case and will show that we acted in good faith on these cases,” Silver said Wednesday.

He said the Assembly’s policies on handling sexual harassment cases have been revised.

The Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee on Monday recommended sanctions against Kellner after finding he violated Silver’s earlier order not to have interns in his office, attempted to obstruct a survey about his workplace climate and engaged in additional sexual harassment of female staff beyond what was investigated earlier. Kellner was previously admonished in December.

The committee found last year that Kellner violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy by making inappropriate comments to staff members in 2009 and 2011.

Kellner called Silver’s decision to close his offices “a classic example of the politics of personal destruction” because he exercised his right to appeal the earlier finding and sanctions. An arbiter ruled that he’s entitled to see the evidence against him, and the Assembly has defied that ruling, leading to new trumped-up charges, he said.

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