April 24, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
A former federal prosecutor who previously led the corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been chosen to prosecute City Council Member Barry Grodenchik for his alleged sexual harassment.
Carrie H. Cohen will present a case against Grodenchik to the Committee on Standards and Ethics detailing accusations that he harassed a City Council staffer with several unwanted advances and inappropriate conversations.
The unnamed staffer accused Grodenchik of repeatedly singling her out for hugs and kisses, according to a report by the Council’s Ethics Committee. During one meeting, the staffer says Grodenchik blew her a kiss from across the table, and at the end of the meeting, walked over to give her a hug and kiss. She says Grodenchik also made comments about her weight.
Grodenchik was promptly removed from the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team and as Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee while disciplinary proceedings are ongoing.
Following an April 4 Committee on Standards and Ethics meeting where the accusations were presented, Grodenchik defended himself in a statement, citing his many years of public service, having both worked for and supervised many women without any problems. He also stated that he did not believe his greetings to be inappropriate.
“For me, as is true for many of my colleagues, a hug is a common greeting for people I have known for a long time, but as others do not feel that way, I will certainly be more sensitive to that in the future,” Grodenchik said.
Grodenchik also blasted City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, calling his removal from the committees an “over-reaction with an excessive punishment that is harmful to this body.”
Following another hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, Cohen will present the case to the Ethics Committee.
Cohen successfully led the 2015 case against Silver on charges of corruption and money laundering, at which point he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to repay $5.3 million in illegal profits and $1.75 million in additional fines. The decision was later overturned, but was reversed once more in 2018 when Silver was once again found guilty.