By David Brand
Councilmember Barry Grodenchik on Tuesday admitted to sexually harassing a staff member and agreed to resign his chairmanship of the Parks and Recreation Committee, weeks after initially denying an allegation that he paid inappropriate attention to a woman who worked for the City Council.
Though the resignation has generated significant attention, one group has remained noticeably absent from the conversation: the Queens City Council delegation.
Only two Queens councilmembers, Rory Lancman and Robert Holden, responded to the Eagle’s request for comment about Grodenchik’s resignation last week.
The offices of Councilmembers Paul Vallone, Peter Koo, Francisco Moya, Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm, I. Daneek Miller, Karen Koslowitz and Eric Ulrich did not respond to requests.
Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer — a candidate to replace Katz as Queens Borough President — also ignored requests for comment. Reporter Christine Chung of THE CITY said Katz, who is running for Queens District Attorney, has ignored her request for comment, as well.
A spokesperson for Councilmember Donovan Richards told the Eagle that Richards would probably not comment.
Grodenchik has represented DIstrict 23 in Northeast Queens since 2015 after previously serving in the state Assembly.
In April, a woman working for the Council said Grodenchik created an uncomfortable environment by singling her out for hugs and kisses, and blowing her kiss in a meeting. The Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics declined to pursue a full hearing on the accusations after Grodenchik agreed to resign his chairmanship. He also said he would pay for and attend sexual harassment training.
Lancman said in a statement that he deferred to the Committee on Standards and Ethics, which “conducted a thorough investigation with experienced outside counsel into the allegations against Councilmember Grodenchik and arrived at a serious sanction, which seems to have the support of the Council staff member who filed the complaint.”
Lancman, a candidate for Queens DA, said women who experience sexual harassment face challenges to coming forward and being heard.
“Having represented many women bringing sexual harassment cases before becoming an elected official, I know how difficult it is for victims of sexual harassment to have their voices heard,” he continued. “I hope that the resulting sanction and the attention the Ethics Committee paid to this case enables the Council staff member to continue to contribute her full talents to the Council's important work."
Holden also deferred to the Ethics Committee investigation.
“Those involved in the investigation are the only people who have the complete details of what transpired, so I support the Standards and Ethics Committee’s decision to accept Councilman Grodenchik’s resignation and admission of wrongdoing,” Holden said. “Councilman Grodenchik has been a good elected official for many years, but no one should be made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace or anywhere else.”
“I am deeply sorry for my conduct and for any harm suffered by the council staff member as a result of my conduct,” Grodenchik said during a Standards and Ethics Committee hearing on May 14, according to the New York Post.
A spokesperson for Grodenchik, who issued a lengthy statement denying the allegations against him last month, said Grodenchik would not provide additional comment.