ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York state lawmaker has been sanctioned by a legislative ethics committee that concluded he asked a female legislative staffer for nude photos and leaked her name when she filed a harassment complaint.
The committee also determined that Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, of Rensselaer, lied to an investigator when he said he had no knowledge about the allegations, which were first reported last year.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie made the committee's findings public and formally sanctioned McLaughlin on Wednesday.
McLaughlin denied the allegations and called the findings and resulting sanctions "a pathetic political hit job." He said he has asked the local prosecutor to review the case to see if his rights were violated.
"A despicable element (in) the New York state Assembly sunk to a new low when it used its Committee on Ethics and Guidance as a political weapon to release untrue, baseless and legally infirm allegations against me in an attempt to negatively impact my career as a public servant," he said in a statement emailed to reporters.
The staffer is not named in the committee's findings. McLaughlin was specifically directed not to identify her, but the investigation determined that he did so last year, revealing the woman's name to a second staffer who then spread the information to other legislative employees. McLaughlin also mentioned details about the allegations that the Ethics Committee said confirmed the woman's story.
In its findings, the committee noted the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of those who report harassment so they feel they can speak out without fear of reprisal or embarrassment.
The sanctions — which include a prohibition on hiring interns — will have little practical effect on McLaughlin, whose term ends in about a month. He was elected county executive earlier this month in Rensselaer County, across the Hudson River from Albany.