NY Sen. Klein Denies Claim That He Forcibly Kissed Staffer
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — An ex-staffer says state Sen. Jeff Klein forcibly kissed her outside an Albany bar two years ago, claims the powerful Democratic lawmaker from the Bronx called "completely false" on Wednesday.
The woman's allegations were laid out in a story published Wednesday evening by The Huffington Post . She said several legislative staffers were out celebrating the passage of the state budget in the early morning hours of April 1. Klein and Democratic Sen. Diane Savino were among them, she said.
The now 30-year-old woman said Klein tried to kiss her while the two smoked cigarettes outside the bar. After the incident, she left the bar. She never filed a formal complaint, she said, because she felt ashamed. She resigned her position about a month later.
"The fact that there was an environment that could make me doubt the self-confidence that I worked so hard to have ? that I got from the strong women in my life ? made me feel like it wasn't the place for me," Erica Vladimer told The Huffington Post.
Klein held a hastily called conference call with reporters to discuss the allegations shortly before the story was published. He said he went out to smoke with the woman but nothing inappropriate occurred. He said he welcomes an investigation into the incident and already has hired a lawyer to question witnesses.
Klein said he didn't know the staffer well and recalled an exchange that night in which she repeatedly invited him to spend Passover with her family, a request he found oddly personal. He said the following day another staffer mentioned a "rumor" about the alleged incident.
"I have nothing to hide and welcome any investigation," he said.
Klein leads the Independent Democratic Conference, a faction of Democratic Senate members who broke ranks with mainline Democrats to give Republicans control of the Senate. He is considered one of the most powerful legislators in New York and one of the small number of top officials who negotiate the state budget behind closed doors each year.
Savino, who at the time was dating Klein, joined him on the conference call to say she saw nothing unusual the night in question.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are sexual assault victims unless they grant permission, which the woman has done with The Huffington Post. Attempts to reach her Wednesday were unsuccessful.