Queens councilman admits to sexually harassing staffer, resigns from leadership post to avoid disciplinary hearing

File photo by Mark Hallum

After staunchly defending himself from sexual harassment allegations last month, Councilman Barry Grodenchik capitulated Tuesday and resigned as chair of the Committee on Parks in order to avoid a public disciplinary hearing.

When Grodenchik was summoned to appear before the City Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics for a hearing on alleged sexual harassment of a female Council staffer in early April, he was defiant and accused Speaker Corey Johnson of overreacting after he was stripped of his position on the Budget Negotiating Team.

Johnson responded by hiring former federal prosecutor Carrie H. Cohen, who had previously led the corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, to lead the investigation into the Grodenchik allegations. In order to avoid a formal disciplinary hearing, Grodenchik admitted his actions and agreed to undergo sexual harassment training at his own expense. The committee voted to suspend Gredenchik’s case until he completes the training.

“I understand that my actions caused the Council staff member to suffer embarrassment, stress and discomfort and emotional distress, and that her work environment was adversely and negatively affected,” Grodenchik told the committee. “I am deeply sorry for my conduct and for any harm suffered by the Council staff member as a result of my conduct.”

Grodenchik represents the 23rd Council District which includes Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Queens Village, Fresh Meadows, Hollis and Little Neck among other neighborhoods. He was elected to the City Council in 2015 and re-elected in 2017.

During his 25 years in public service he was also elected to the state Assembly following more than a decade at Borough Hall. Grodenchik is the third member of the City Council to face disciplinary action for controversial behavior this year after Councilman Ruben Diaz of the Bronx was accused of making homophobic comments, and Councilman Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn was accused of making anti-Palestine comments.

“Now that this matter is resolved, I want to thank City Council Standards and Ethics Committee Chair Steven Matteo and the other members of the committee for a thorough and thoughtful investigation,” Speaker Corey Johnson said. “The work they do is not easy but it is necessary to ensure our rules and due process are honored. I’d also like to thank attorney Carrie Cohen who specializes in workplace misconduct charges for he valuable assistance in this case. I’m grateful that the Council can move forward and continue working together on behalf of all New Yorkers.”

Grodenchik’s office said the Councilman would have no further comment.