Update: Earlier today, Senate President Stan Rosenberg announced he will be taking a leave of absence from his leadership post during an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner. WGBH News spoke with Democratic Senator Barbara L'Italien of the 2nd Essex and Middlesex District hours before Rosenberg's announcement about L'Italien's call for him to step aside from the Senate presidency pending the investigation. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Marilyn Schairer: So what can you tell me you're expecting for today? I know you have called for Senator Rosenberg to step aside during this investigation. Can you tell me more about that and why you decided to take that stance?
Senator Barbara L'Italien: While I agree that an independent investigation is warranted, I have great concerns that any victim is going to step forward while the Senate president is still holding down the job of the Senate president. So to have him be engaging in all other duties of the Senate presidency while this investigation is happening, I believe will put a chilling effect on those victims. And I think at this point we need to focus on the victims and their stories being heard.
But I also think that, you know, the institution of the Senate needs to be considered as well. There's a lot of work that we in the Senate need to do over the next year. I'm very concerned that none of that will take place. So I believe, really, from the victims' perspective, they need to feel safe to be able to be able to participate in this investigation, and at the same time the Senate as an institution is larger than any one person and needs to go on, and needs to do the work — the very real work that has to be accomplished for the citizens in Massachusetts.
Schairer: Are you calling for Rosenberg to step down or resign completely?
L'Italien: There will be a discussion today in the caucus, at which point all 40 members have the right to air their views. I feel as though I wanted to raise the issue that he should not be serving in the duties during the investigation as a starting point to that conversation. I think that that's something that will happen. The decisions made will be made as a result of input from all senators. And I just need to say that I believe that Senator Rosenberg had no idea that this was going on, and he's done a wonderful job as the Senate president. We've had shared leadership. We've had a lot of steps forward on the Senate side. But again, this isn't about one person. This is about the institution. And I believe at the end of the day the Senate president will do the right thing.
Schairer: So if he does step aside would you, yourself, or who would you think should move into that role?
L'Italien: I'm not looking to move into that role. I think that, you know, I'm bringing this up because I'm feeling that it needs to be said. I personally am not looking to fill that role in any way.
Schairer: Who do you think should?
L'Italien: I don't know. I think it's too soon for any speculation like that. I'm just focused on today and trying to, you know, ensure that it's not only an independent investigation but also that the Senate president does not remain holding all the other day to day duties. I just do not think that is right.
Schairer: Any indication from Rosenberg that he may step aside?
L'Italien: I haven't spoken with him. I have no idea. I mean, that's what today is all about.
Schairer: What's the process to to fill that vacuum if he were to step aside?
L'Italien: Unsure. I know there are duties that are, I think, prescribed in, perhaps, the rules about that. But I'm unsure. I'm really focused just on today and making sure that within this discussion we do not lose sight of of the victims in this case.
Schairer: And what time is this happening?
L'Italien: I think it's at 10 or 10:30. I've seen two different times, so it may be that the leadership team is meeting first and then the the rest of us, the whole group will assemble after that.
Schairer: And what? Take a vote as to whether or not he should?
L'Italien: Oh I think there'll be a long discussion, a long caucus. I understand the hope is that, because we now are scheduled for a formal session, the hope is that there some conclusion reached and a vote. My guess is the vote is for an independent evaluator but I just — honestly I don't know.
L'Italien: I'm looking at my calendar — it looks like the caucus is at 11:00. So the Democratic caucus for all the Democrats is that 11. A joint member's caucus at 12 — so in other words, the six Republicans will then join that caucus, and then there is a formal session scheduled for 1:00.
Schairer: And that at that time you're saying during the caucus there could be a vote for an independent investigation?
L'Italien: That's what the indicators are from the e-mails we've been receiving.
Schairer: And possibly asking the Senate president to step aside during that independent investigation?
L'Italien: You know, I plan on raising that. I would imagine it's on the minds of others as well but that is not necessarily a vote, that is a discussion.
Schairer: Okay, thank you.
L'Italien: Yep, bye.