Political leader denies forcibly kissing staffer

Sen. Diane Savino defends breakaway Dem chief accused of sexual assault

An ex-staffer says state Sen.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, former State Senate employee Erica Vladimer claims that Klein forcibly kissed her outside a bar on the night the state budget was passed in 2015.

"Clearly, these charges need to be investigated immediately", said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women-New York.

"I want to be crystal clear, this alleged incident never happened, nor did anything inappropriate happen in any fashion that evening, period", Klein said. Diane Savino - described as an "unprecedented" invitation that Klein declined. "In my head it lasted forever, I don't think it lasted even three seconds".

Senate Leader Flanagan does say that a probe of the accusations against Klein may be "within the scope of other entities".

At the time, Vladimer, now 30, was working as a policy analyst and counsel for the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, an eight-member group of breakaway Democrats led by Klein, D-Bronx, who represents parts of lower Westchester County. A ninth Democrat, Simcha Felder, also caucuses with the Republicans but is not a member of the IDC.

The accusation against Klein comes a politically complex time for the state Senate, which is narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats.


The accuser identified herself in a Huffington Post story.

She said she pulled away and told Klein, "absolutely not", but he tried to act as if he had not done anything wrong, according to the Huffington Post. "The fact that there was an environment that could make me doubt the self-confidence that I worked so hard to have-that I got from the strong women in my life-made me feel like it wasn't the place for me", she told the Huffington Post. "Klein would have, in full view of both his longtime girlfriend, numerous staff members, and in the middle of a very visible and public street, assaulted the Former Staffer, as her allegation suggests", the report read.

Vladimer said she then went back into the bar and was initially anxious that Klein's girlfriend, Savino, may have seen them.

"This never occurred", Savino said.

Her friend, who chose to remain anonymous, said, "She was hysterically crying, not able to breathe, couldn't catch her breath". Klein also insisted he has never been accused of harassment previously or paid money to settle claims. Vladimer didn't come forward earlier, she added, because she felt ashamed about what happened, and feared she caused the kiss to happen, according to the news outlet. However, an IDC spokesperson said a text message shows the former staffer asking for a reference for another job opportunity weeks before the alleged incident.

Late in the day on Thursday, Senator Klein wrote a letter to JCOPE, requesting that they conduct a formal inquiry into the matter. And she pledged to support others who find themselves saying "me too", saying they do not have to go through it alone.

"We fully support the fearless women that have come forward in this historic moment to bring sexual misconduct to the forefront of our national conversation", the letter read. Senators David Valesky, David Carlucci, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Jose Peralta and Marisol Alcantara say they have "complete confidence" in Klein, and say the allegations are "completely out of character" for the Senate Leader, who they say is a "longtime champion for women".

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