Another elected official casualty of the #MeToo movement has fallen but this time the story involves a woman boss and a male staffer with a twist. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat from Connecticut, may have thought she would weather the storm of bad publicity created when the public learned over the weekend of her former chief of staff’s harassment of a female staffer. The story goes back to 2016 when it took Esty three months to fire Tony Baker, then her chief of staff, for harassing and even leaving a death threat via email to Anna Kain. Kain and Baker had dated. When her claims against him were brought to Esty’s attention, three months went by before she fired Baker and then she awarded him with $5,000 severance pay.
As reported by Roll Call, Esty announced her retirement. Retirement is code for she couldn’t win re-election.
“Ms. Kain is to be commended for her courage in coming forward and telling her story,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday before Esty announced her retirement. “As Congresswoman Esty has acknowledged, her actions did not protect Ms. Kain and should have. Congresswoman Esty has now appropriately requested an expedited review by the Ethics Committee.”
Though Esty launched an internal review a week after discovering the allegations against him, in May 2016, she delayed firing him even after the review showed a pattern of abuse by Baker to not just Kain but to other female staffers, too. Then the truly inexcusable happened.
But instead of firing Baker, Esty kept him on her payroll for three months; paid him $5,000 in severance from her congressional fund; signed a nondisclosure agreement about the reasons Baker was no longer with her office; and even co-authored a recommendation letter touting Baker’s “considerable skills” that he used to land a job as Ohio director of the gun control group Sandy Hook Promise.
Talk about making a bad situation worse. What a true lack of judgment Esty exhibited by covering for him and then providing a glowing recommendation for future employment. I wonder how he behaves in his new job with the gun-grabbers in Ohio.
Before she called it quits Monday, Esty had asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate any wrongdoing in her firing of Baker. But after politicians in Connecticut began calling for her resignation, including the state Senate’s majority leader, Esty saw the writing on the wall and announced her retirement.
From being a room parent in a first-grade classroom to serving on the library board, town council, state house and US Congress, I went into public service to fight for equality, justice, and fairness,” Esty said in a statement to Hearst Media.
It is one of the greatest honors of my life that the people of Connecticut’s Fifth District elected me to represent them in Congress. However, I have determined that it is in the best interest of my constituents and my family to end my time in Congress at the end of this year and not seek re-election.
She used Facebook to issue a full statement and pledged to work hard in the next few months for stronger workplace protection. I can’t be the first woman to wonder when women in positions of power will actually do what they promise to do. How can such a woman look at a problem in her very own office and fail so miserably to respond? In this case, the offender issued a death threat on an answering machine, for cripes sake, and she protected him instead of kicking him to the curb.
Esty has issued an apology to Ms. Kain and paid back the $5,000 out of personal funds. Now she just has to live with herself. There may be a bit of a silver lining for Republicans, though. The race for the seat looks competitive.
NRCC: Elizabeth Esty’s coverup over her staffer’s domestic violence scandal was as reprehensible as it was morally bankrupt..the NRCC is ready to win this competitive seat this fall. Democrats won’t be able to distance themselves from the stain Esty left on their brand.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) April 2, 2018