The leader of the Independent Democrats in the state Senate denies that he forcibly kissed a former staffer, and says he intends to remain as leader of the breakaway democratic faction.
Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and his colleague, Sen. Diane Savino, issued a preemptive strike Wednesday against an article in the Huffington Post, where the former female staffer, 30-year-old Erica Vladimer, says Klein forcibly kissed her on the sidewalk outside an Albany bar on March 31, 2015, the night the state budget was approved.
Klein said the incident did not occur.
“I want to be crystal clear,” Klein told reporters on hastily arranged conference call. “This alleged incident never happened, nor did anything inappropriate happen that evening in any fashion. Period.”
Klein says Vladimer never filed a formal complaint against him, and even wrote a letter of resignation two months later, where she praised Klein. The Senator says he did hear a rumor about an alleged incident the next day, April 1, 2015, but told others he did not try to kiss the staffer and soon forgot about it.
Savino, who has dated Klein, says she was with him the entire evening, and says there would “have been an incident” had the alleged kissing occurred in front of her.
“Those of you who know me, know that I would not have remained silent,” said Savino.
The Senators say they both remember Vladimer asking Klein about his plans for the upcoming Passover Holiday. They say she asked Klein if he wanted to attend her family’s holiday meal, which Klein says he politely declined.
Klein says he later smoked a cigarette outside the bar, Justin’s on Lark Street, and that he conversed with Vladimer. But he says that was the end of the interaction.
Klein also released a report from an attorney he hired to conduct an investigation. The lawyer, Michela Zweib, of Loeb and Loeb, interviewed several witnesses who said the alleged incident on the sidewalk outside the bar did not occur.
“In our view it defies both reason and credibility to suggest Sen. Klein would have, in full view of both his longtime girlfriend, numerous staff members, and in the middle of a very visible and public street, assaulted the Former Staffer, as her allegation suggests”, the report read.
The report also alleges that the staffer had been drinking.
Senator Klein says he will cooperate in any other probes that might occur. There’s no word from the State Senate yet on whether an ethics investigation will be launched.
Updated: January 11, 9:25 a.m.
The rest of the members of Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference issued a statement in support of their leader. Senators David Valesky, David Carlucci, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Jose Peralta and Marisol Alcantara say they have “complete confidence” in Klein, and say the allegations are “completely out of character” for the Senate Leader, who they say is a “longtime champion for women.”
And Governor Cuomo weighed in, saying “this disturbing situation should be investigated, and I believe it should be done immediately and independently."