Despite calls for her resignation from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty has remained defiant amid claims that she improperly handled serious allegations against her then-chief of staff.
Backlash against the Connecticut Democrat grew over the weekend as news spread that Tony Baker remained in his influential position even after Esty learned of accusations that he had sexually harassed and threatened a female staffer.
As Roll Call reported, an internal review initiated at that time revealed “a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women” on Esty’s staff.
The evidence was not enough for Esty to immediately fire Baker, though, which has led to bipartisan denunciation of her response.
Not only did she keep the embattled chief of staff in his paid position for three more months and provide him a $5,000 severance payment, she cited his “considerable skills” in a recommendation letter sent to his future employer.
Though she ultimately released a statement acknowledging her botched handling of the situation, many of her fellow lawmakers did not believe her call for an ethics investigation went far enough.
“Although we worked with the House Employment Counsel to investigate and ultimately dismiss this employee for his outrageous behavior with a former staffer, I believe it is important for the House Ethics Committee to conduct its own inquiry into this matter,” Esty’s statement read.
She went on to admit that Baker’s ouster “was far from a perfect process,” adding that she would appreciate the “advice, counsel, and review” that an ethics probe would provide.
The statement did not quell demand for her resignation, though, as many Democrats echoed the sentiment expressed in a statement from National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Martin.
“Elizabeth Esty orchestrated one of the most disturbing Washington cover-ups in recent memory,” he said. “There is no place for someone who protects abusers in Congress, and she should resign immediately.”
According to Talking Points Memo, numerous members of her own party, both within Connecticut and on Capitol Hill, have made similar requests.
Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat considering a gubernatorial bid in the state, said the narrative was “very troubling” and called on Esty to provide more than a statement.
“I know Congresswoman Esty to be a woman of action rather than words, and in this case, words are not enough,” she said. “I believe that under the circumstances, Congresswoman Esty must step down from her position.”
For her part, Esty claims she wants an ethics committee investigation to “clarify whether there was any wrongdoing” in the way she handled allegations against Baker.
Though she has rebuffed calls for her to step down immediately, CNN reported Monday that she will not seek reelection.
In a Facebook post announcing her decision, Esty wrote that serving in Congress has been “one of the greatest honors” of her life.
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