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Ex-aides claim sexual harassment by NY assemblyman

December 20, 2013
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Three former aides have accused New York state Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak of sexual harassment, saying the lawmaker's behavior was so severe and persistent that they had to quit.

In a legal filing, former Communications Director Kimberly Snickles, her predecessor, Annalise Freling, and Legislative Director Jamie Campbell allege "a continuous pattern of sexual harassment" that continued despite their complaints to their immediate supervisor, the assemblyman's chief of staff.

The supervisor, Adam Locher, took no action, according to a "notice of claim," filed Thursday with the state Court of Claims. The notice, a first step toward a lawsuit, seeks "monetary compensation and judgment against" Gabryszak, the state Assembly and New York state.

A phone message left at Gabryszak's Albany office wasn't immediately returned Friday and Locher did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Gabryszak told the Times-Union of Albany, which first reported on the notice, that he had not seen it and wouldn't comment on it. He told the newspaper he had no problem with the three women.

The 62-year-old Democrat, a former town supervisor in Cheektowaga, was elected to the Assembly in November 2006. His online Assembly biography says he has been married for 37 years and has two children.

In the notice, Gabryszak is accused of telling a female staffer that she aroused him sexually and of taking Snickles to a massage parlor. He also allegedly suggested that female staffers stay in his hotel room during trips and sent Campbell a cellphone video in which he acted as if he were engaged in a sex act, the newspaper reported.

"Claimants now suffer from emotional distress, mental anguish and stress as a result of this matter," according to the filing by attorney Johnny Destino.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement that the allegations would be referred to the Assembly's ethics committee for investigation.

"The Assembly is committed to a safe and respectful work environment for all its employees and we take all allegations very seriously," spokesman Michael Whyland said.

Silver was criticized earlier this year for using $103,000 in public money for a secret settlement to end sex harassment claims against former Democratic Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who denied he harassed anyone.

"If these allegations are even close to being true," a statement from Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner said, "the Assembly member should resign immediately and spare the community from further embarrassment."

Destino declined to elaborate on the allegations when reached by phone Friday. He said the notice preserves the former employees' right to sue for one year.

Freling was communications director from 2011 until March 2013. Snickles held the position from May through mid-October. Campbell worked for Gabryszak from 2010 until October. All claim they had no choice but to quit their jobs, losing wages, health insurance and other benefits.



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