ALBANY – Four months after Dennis Gabryszak resigned in disgrace following allegations he had sexually harassed female staff members, the Assembly’s ethics committee has formally dropped its investigation into the matter.
The Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance on April 29 quietly sent Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver a letter saying it was ending its probe of the former Democratic lawmaker from Cheektowaga.
The committee had few options once Gabyrszak resigned from office in January, and it would not have been able to sanction a former lawmaker.
The conclusion of that panel’s work, however, does not mean some other agency is still not looking into the matter. However, Gabryszak’s lawyer said he had no knowledge any other probes are under way.
Also, the seven women who accused Gabryszak of sexual harassment, a claim he denied when he resigned, still have the state and federal civil courts as an option to seek damages for his alleged misdeeds.
The Buffalo News confirmed the investigation has been dropped Wednesday when a source read the contents of the brief letter to Silver.
In the letter, the panel’s members, who include Democrats and Republicans, said they received the case in mid-December alleging “numerous instances’’ of sexual harassment.’’ Lawmakers for the committee immediately began to investigate the lawmaker “to protect Assembly employees.’’
With Gabryszak’s resignation, “the consensus of the ethicscCommittee is it is terminating the investigation of the very serious allegations against the former member,’’ the letter states.
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Nassau County Democrat who heads the ethics committee, declined comment.
“We understand that the Assembly ethics committee has concluded their involvement and we believe that’s the correct decision,’’ said Terrence Connors, Gabyrszak’s Buffalo lawyer.
The alleged verbal comments, emails, texts and other assorted claims by the women against Gabryszak became increasingly detailed as the matter became public late last fall.
Before the start of the legislative session in January, it was growing increasingly clear that the Assembly, with the ethics committee acting first, was likely to move to force Gabryszak from office.
In his resignation letter, which he termed a “retirement’’ statement, Gabryszak on Jan. 12 said he never had any sexual contact with any members of his staff and he disputed claims that he sought to have sexual relations with women on his staff.
He said the talk he engaged in with staff was part of “mutual banter and exchanges that took place that should not have taken place because it is inappropriate in the workplace even if it does not constitute sexual harassment.’’
Gabryszak’s seat has remained vacant since his resignation; Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo decided against calling a special election to fill the seat before this November’s general elections.