In the Arena: Unfathomable that Rosenberg could be derailed by scandal

Friday, December 08, 2017

Four words I never expected to write together in the same sentence — “Stan Rosenberg” and “under investigation.”

But that is the situation we now find ourselves in, thanks to a published allegation that Rosenberg’s 30-year-old husband Bryon Hefner sexually harassed, and possibly assaulted, a number of unidentified men who had business in front the Senate over which Rosenberg presided.

That was until Monday, however, when Rosenberg voluntarily surrendered the presidency, which I guess is better than having your colleagues rip it from you. But it is no less devastating for a guy who had to be on top of most lists as the least likely politician to get taken down by a sex-related scandal.

And, as scandals go, this one is a doozy. It features the “grand slam” of tabloid titillation — sex, allegations of abuse of power, political double-standards, and an investigation that threatens to bring the curtain down on an otherwise distinguished career in public service.

Ordinarily, I might be among the first to pile on, but this is no upwardly mobile House backbencher getting his hand caught in the cookie jar. This is Stan “Freaking” Rosenberg — the closest thing this valley has to a political untouchable, and a man who has brought millions in resources back to an area of the commonwealth that’s often an afterthought.

There are many doing a lot of crowing today at Rosenberg’s plight. For others, it’s just extremely disappointing, and for still others, it’s borderline mind-blowing. I’ll admit to falling somewhere between the second and third categories while struggling to handicap what comes next.

As I’m writing this, all Rosenberg has had to surrender so far is his presidency, which he says is “temporary.” Somehow, I doubt it. In fact, I believe any remaining hold he has on that job will expire just as soon as one of his colleagues secures the requisite votes to take the gavel.

The big question for a lot of us out here is whether Rosenberg will be able to keep his actual Senate seat, which is probably going to very much depend on what the investigation reveals.

Either Stan knew what Hefner was doing — which could make him complicit if criminal charges are filed — or he didn’t. In both scenarios, he looks bad, and even if he does manage to survive, it’s unlikely Rosenberg will fully regain the reputation he spent the better part of 40 years to build.

And that is truly tragic.

Greenfield split-tax photo finish

It looks like this Greenfield-split tax rate debate is going right down to the wire.

This week, the Greenfield Town Council voted to sustain Mayor Bill Martin’s veto of the Nov. 15 council vote to split the rate and charge a factor of 1-point-5 to business and commercial ratepayers. But still pending is the Nov. 29 vote, which again split the rate at a lower level of 1-point-08-08 for businesses, which Martin could very well reject again.

“I don’t know yet, I’ll have to take a look at it when it gets to my office,” Martin said of the council votes.

Martin has until Dec. 16 to either sign or veto, and if he does reject the council’s action, it would have to schedule a special meeting Christmas week to be able to beat the end of the year deadline.

“That’s what has to happen to set the tax rate under the rules you operate under,” Town Attorney Gordon Quinn said. “There has to be a meeting of the minds at some point between the legislative and executive branches.”

If that were possible, this government probably wouldn’t be in the mess that it’s in right now.

Library redemption

What ended up being one of the bigger stories of the recent Greenfield election season turned out to be anything but.

If you recall, the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library was forced to cancel a candidate’s “meet and greet” event after concerns were raised by Council Vice President Isaac Mass about the propriety of holding a political event in a public building overseen by a municipal employee, in this case, the town librarian.

Well, according to a legal interpretation by the state Ethics Commission, the event, had it happened, would have been legal because it met the criteria laid out in the state ethics laws — that it be open to the public, that all of the candidates were invited and would have had equal access to the voters, that the library did not endorse any candidate, and no fundraising was to be allowed.

“Now that it is clear that there was nothing unethical, I hope we can put this misunderstanding behind us,” Friends of the Library President Ed Berlin said. “Holding such events are consistent with our mission to provide opportunities for civic education and public discourse.”

Hopefully, we will all remember that when we get to do it all over again in two years.

Chris Collins is a former staff reporter for the Recorder, and is a Greenfield native. Over the years he has continued to keep his eye on local politics from a variety of perches for different news outlets.