City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced Thursday that he removed Queens City Councilman Barry Grodenchik from the budget negotiation team due to one of Grodenchik’s staffers filing a sexual harassment complaint against him.
The Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics issued a "disciplinary charge" against Grodenchik Thursday and decided to launch an investigation into the complaint, according to people familiar with the committee’s private deliberations. In the complaint, a woman working for the 59-year-old councilman alleged that he hugged, kissed and otherwise directed unwanted attention toward her for more than a year, according to those familiar with the committee’s discussions.
"The Standards & Ethics Committee investigated and deliberated over this matter very carefully," Johnson said in a statement. "In light of their decision to formally charge Council Member Grodenchik and launch disciplinary proceedings against him, I am immediately removing him from the Budget Negotiating Team, pending the results of the disciplinary hearing."
It was not immediately clear when the employee filed the complaint.
Grodenchik released a statement Thursday afternoon saying the allegations stemmed from him shaking hands and hugging several of his staff members during a meeting earlier this year. In the statement, he apologized if the hugging made anyone uncomfortable.
"For me, as is true for many of my colleagues, a hug is a common greeting for people I have known for a long time, but as others do not feel that way, I will certainly be more sensitive to that in the future," Grodenchik said in a statement.
Grodenchik went on to say Johnson stripped him of his chairmanship of the Parks Committee, but sources said that is not the case.
A city lawmaker cannot be stripped of his or her committee membership without such a move being approved by the Ethics Committee as well as two-thirds of the full Council, according to the body’s rules.
When asked about the matter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the committee was right to launch an investigation.
"When someone comes forward, take it seriously, believe them, act immediately,” de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference. “Let’s see what the investigation yields.”