Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak is playing a game with voters that is every bit as intolerable as those he is accused of playing with his female staff members. The Cheektowaga Democrat needs to declare his innocence or resign.
Gabryszak has hunkered down since a half-dozen former or current employees have come forward to accuse him of a pattern of sexual harassment. The details are sordid and don’t bear repeating, but if they are true, Gabryszak has disqualified himself from public office. Thus far, due to the assemblyman’s guilty silence, there is no reason to believe they are not true.
That is the new game Gabryszak is playing. Hiding behind his lawyer, Gabryszak is saying nothing, not even to defend himself. It’s an untenable situation. With these accusations hanging over his head, he cannot represent his constituents effectively – or at all. He can be nothing more than an empty suit casting votes.
There are three choices: Gabryszak can offer a plausible denial of the allegations and let the matter proceed, he can resign, or the Assembly can expel him. But his silence cannot be a strategy to wait out the storm and remain in office. If the allegations are true – or if Gabryszak refuses to respond to them – then he has to know he is done. There is no room for him in the Assembly.
The assemblyman is hearing that from virtually all quarters at this point, from County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Gabryszak has been given no reason to believe this will merely blow over. Even colleagues, including Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, have called on Gabryszak to quit if the allegations are true. And, yet, he does nothing.
Albany for too long has been a playground for sexual and financial philanderers. There was a time, sad to say, when society would wink at the kind of behavior of which Gabryszak has been accused, but it’s not true now. Indeed, Gabryszak has watched as peers in the Legislature have been disciplined or expelled for such conduct.
He had to have known better but, according to the reports of the women from his office, he showed no evidence of that, conducting himself in ways that can only be described as shameful and possibly compulsive.
It can’t go on. The Legislature is about to reconvene and if the allegations are true, Gabryszak doesn’t belong there. He must either speak up or do his constituents and his family a favor, and quit. And he needs to do it now.