A Connecticut Democrat is being challenged to resign after it was reported that she let her former chief of staff continue to work in her office for months even though she knew of allegations that he physically harmed and threatened to “kill” another staffer.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) faced heat on Thursday after a report in the Connecticut Post revealed that her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, allegedly called a young female staffer nearly 50 times on May 5, 2016. He had previously had a romantic relationship with the woman and had once punched her in the back while in Esty’s D.C. office.
According to an affidavit obtained by the Post, Anna Kain, felt “intimidated” by Baker which is why she kept quiet for fear of her own safety.
“Throughout the Winter of 2014, respondent (Baker) repeatedly screamed at petitioner (the former staffer) in the workplace, making the woman feel intimidated and caused petitioner to feel she could not report respondent’s actions without putting her safety at risk,” the affidavit says.
Kain also revealed a copy of a threating voicemail that Baker left on her phone to the Washington Post.
“You better f—–g reply to me or I will f—–g kill you,” Baker said on the night that he reportedly attempted to reach Kain nearly 50 times.
Esty became aware of the situation within a week but she did not fire her chief of staff. She met with lawyers, according to the Post, and she met with Kain who gave her detailed descriptions of the alleged sexual harassment and abuse that took place throughout 2014.
Still, Baker remained on Esty’s staff for three months and even accompanied her to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. He finally left the position in August of 2016. After leaving, he was given a letter of recommendation and a severance payment of $5,000.
Esty defends the letter of recommendation saying it was “limited,” and also says it was the Office of House Employment Counsel which delayed Baker’s firing.
A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Chris Martin, issued a statement criticizing Esty for “orchestrating one of the most disturbing Washington cover-ups in recent memory,” and asking for her resignation.
An editorial in the Hartford Courant also called for Esty to resign.
“Ms. Esty had every opportunity — and every responsibility — to at least suspend Mr. Baker on the spot and hold him accountable for his behavior. Instead, she went with the script that has cloaked sexual assault and harassment in Congress for decades. She is complicit.”
Feeling pressure from Republicans to stand down, Esty released a statement to Facebook on Thursday, apologizing for “failing to protect” Kain.
“The spring of 2016, I was horrified and angry to learn that a promising, dedicated former employee of mine was harassed and harmed by my then (now former) chief of staff. I am sorry that I failed to protect her and provide her with the safe and respectful work environment that every employee deserves. I am sorry that I hurt her, her friends, family, and co-workers, and many of my present and former staffers.
To address the immediate crisis, I demanded counseling for my offending chief of staff and I launched an internal review of management policy and practices and an investigation into what was going on in the office. I also took a hard look at how I allowed my office to be run.
Unfortunately, through the review process I learned that the threat of violence was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff. At which point, I hired a new chief of staff, made changes to senior staff, changed employment policy, and instituted mandatory harassment trainings.
To this survivor, and to anyone else on my team who was hurt by my failure to see what was going on in my office, I am so sorry.
I’ve asked myself over and over again, how did I not see this? How could I have let down so many people?
Equality and fairness are values I’ve held long before I came to Congress. Now that I am in Congress, it is my responsibility to run an office that is not only safe, but upholds those values and respects staff and their work on behalf of the people of the 5th Congressional District. I’m inspired by the courage this young woman is demonstrating by speaking up – in the one company town of DC – to say MeToo.
It took guts for my former staffer, this survivor, to speak up, and I want to support her and other survivors. I know that Survivors come first – we need to believe them and support them. And we need to include survivors and allies alike in the conversation about how to implement the changes necessary both in Congress and more broadly to prevent this from happening again.
I know firsthand that we need stronger workplace protections, and to provide employees with a platform to raise concerns. But that’s not enough. Those concerns must be listened to. And people in power must take action.
Now that I know, I must do better. We all must do better.”
On Friday, Esty told CNN that she has no plans to step down.
“For those who have asked, I want to be clear that I am not resigning,” Esty said in a statement to the network. “I have important work to do in Congress including building on the lessons of this horrible series of events.”