A team of lawyers, including a former federal prosecutor who helped put onetime House Speaker Sal DiMasi in prison for public corruption, has been retained by the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate whether Sen. Stanley Rosenberg violated Senate rules in connection with allegations of sexual assault against his husband.
The committee said Monday evening that it had chosen the global law firm of Hogan Lovells to conduct the investigation, with primary responsibility falling to attorneys Anthony Fuller, Jody Newman and Natashia Tidwell. The three attorneys are based in the firm's Boston office.
The legal team will now begin a review into allegations published in the Boston Globe that Rosenberg's husband Bryon Hefner made unwanted sexual advances on at least four men who do business on Beacon Hill, and claimed to wield influence over policy decisions in the Senate.
Fuller was part of the federal prosecution team that convicted DiMasi of accepting kickbacks in exchange for steering state software contracts to a client of his associates.
As an assistant U.S. attorney on the organized crime strike force unit in 2009, Tidwell was part of a pair that prosecuted the case against alleged La Cosa Nostra underboss Carmen DiNunzio, who was sentenced to six years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to bribe a state official to obtain a contract to provide loam to the Massachusetts Highway Department for the Big Dig.
Newman, according to her biography on the Hogan Lovells website, is "skilled at investigating high-risk claims in the workplace and on college campuses" and has "developed and conducted individualized employment law and professionalism trainings for businesses large and small."
"The Committee is confident that these well-qualified lawyers – who have extensive experience investigating alleged misconduct in both the public and private sectors – will fully and fairly conduct the investigation ordered by the Senate," the Ethics Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, said in a statement.
Prior to the announcement, one state senator not on the committee had suggested that it would look to bring in someone from out-of-state with no ties to Beacon Hill.
The Senate Ethics Committee launched its inquiry on Dec. 5, and put a two-week timeline on the hiring of an investigator – a self-imposed deadline that it met with the hiring Monday night. Though there is no timeline for the attorneys to conduct the inquiry, the Ethics Committee said it has asked that it be done "as soon as practicable, without sacrificing thoroughness or attention to detail."
At its initial meeting, the six-member ethics panel put a heavy emphasis on making sure victims felt comfortable speaking with investigators and confident that they would not pay a professional price for coming forward.
"I am deeply disturbed by these allegations which jeopardize the integrity of the Senate. Sexual harassment and assault have no place in the Massachusetts state Senate or any workplace. I am committed to a fair and thorough review of the facts as well as a process that ensures confidentiality for any person who has any information to report on sexual harassment or sexual assaults," Rodrigues said.
The investigative team in in the process of setting up a toll-free phone number and email address for people to provide relevant information.
The other members of the committee are Democrats William Brownsberger, Cynthia Creem and Cindy Friedman and Republican Sens. Bruce Tarr and Richard Ross.
The committee is now expected to largely step back and let the investigator take over.
"Our role as committee members is not to conduct the investigation, but rather set in pace the mechanisms for discovering the truth and allowing this investigator to proceed without delay or any impediments by this committee," Rodrigues said at the initial meeting.
The committee said Monday that it does not anticipate making any other public statements until the independent investigators have completed their work and submitted a report to the committee for review.
The investigator, according to an order adopted by the Senate initiating the probe, is to have "full access" to Rosenberg's office and his staff, and the Ethics Committee was authorized to compel witness testimony and the production of "books and papers and such other records" by summons.
Once the investigator completes his or her work, it will up to the Ethics Committee to review the findings and make a recommendation to the full Senate. The options for the committee would be to take no action at all, to reprimand Rosenberg, or to recommend expulsion.