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Esty Announces Decision to Retire After Mishandling Abuse Allegations

Rep. Elizabeth Esty / Getty Images
• April 2, 2018 5:48 pm

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Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D., Conn.) announced on Monday her retirement from Congress in the wake of revelations that she kept a senior staffer employed for three months after learning he sexually harassed and threatened to kill another co-worker.

Esty's decision comes only hours after calling for the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation into her handling of allegations made against a former chief of staff, Tony Baker.

"I went into public service to fight for equality, justice, and fairness.," Esty wrote on her Facebook page. "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."

The Washington Post reported last week that Baker sexually harassed, threatened, and physically assaulted a former female staffer in Esty's Capitol Hill office. The staffer, who at one point dated Baker, made the allegations in person and via email to Esty during 2014. The congresswoman, instead of placing Baker on leave or terminating his employment immediately, consulted her personal advisors and attorneys before tasking a former senior staffer with looking into the matter.

Baker remained on Esty's staff for three months before taking a position with a gun control group.  Upon his departure, Baker was provided with a letter of recommendation from the congresswoman and approximately $5,000 in severance pay.

The congresswoman admitted she had failed in properly handling the allegations leveled against Baker. Esty also apologized to Baker's victim, saying she was responsible for letting the woman down.

"Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace. In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better," Esty said. "To the survivor, I want to express my strongest apology for letting you down."

The congresswoman plans to spend her final months in Congress addressing the pervasive culture of sexual harassment that has plagued women in all areas of public life.

"In Congress, and workplaces across the country, we need stronger workplace protections and to provide employees with a platform to raise concerns, address problems, and work to reduce and eliminate such occurrences, in the first place," she said. "In my final months in Congress, I will use my power to fight for action and meaningful change."

"I intend to spend the coming months doing what I’ve always done: working hard each and every day for the people of Connecticut," Esty added.

The congresswoman's decision comes only days after Connecticut's largest newspaper, the Hartford Courant, called for her to resign in the wake of the scandal.

Esty's full post can be found below: