No reelection for Esty after sexual harassment controversy

FILE - In this March 4, 2015, file photo, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Esty on Monday, April 2, 2018, asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether she did anything wrong in her handling of the firing of her former chief of staff accused of harassment, threats and violence against female staffers in her congressional office. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) announced earlier this week that she will not be seeking reelection in 2018 as a result of questions regarding her alleged mishandling of a staff member’s sexual harassment claim involving her former chief of staff, according to The New York Times

Esty, who has been representing Connecticut’s fifth district since 2013, has been an outspoken supporter of the #Metoo movement, standing by victims of sexual harassment and assault, according to the New York Times.

Esty said she was made aware of the sexual harassment claim in the spring of 2016 and took steps to investigate and rehabilitate the harasser, her chief of staff Tony Baker, according to a statement released by her office.

“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,” Esty said in the statement. “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.”

But contrary to her statement, two months passed before Esty launched an office investigation into Baker and it took a month after that for Baker to be removed, all while knowing he was a threat to other staff, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Once removed, Baker was awarded a $5,000 severance package and was written a glowing letter of recommendation from Esty that helped him land a job at the Connecticut chapter of the Sandy Hook Promise, according to the Hartford Courant.

“Tony has keen political judgment and helped me, as a new Member of Congress in the minority party, successfully move legislation, develop relationship with other Members and committee staff, and navigate the party apparatus,” Esty said in her letter of recommendation. “He was effective in managing relationships with a wide range of constituencies and interest groups, and I came to rely on his attention to detail.”

Following news reporting of this, Esty personally reimbursed the U.S. Treasury of his severance package and called on the U.S. House Ethics Committee to conduct a review of her handling of the situation and to determine if there was any wrongdoing on her part, according to a press release from her office.

“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 said in the statement.  “It certainly was far from a perfect process – and I would appreciate their advice, counsel, and review.”


Andrew Miano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.miano@uconn.edu.