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Judge dismisses half of cases against Gabryszak on a technicality

By the time the accusations finally ended, seven women, all former staff members, came forward to accuse Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak of sexual harassment.

Six of those women also sued the former Cheektowaga lawmaker, and last week three of those lawsuits were dismissed.

A state judge ruled that three of the six women who went to court waited too long – the statute of limitations is three years – to file their lawsuits against Gabryszak.

State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Troutman also dismissed dozens of claims in the other three lawsuits, but left those plaintiffs free to pursue their allegations of sexual discrimination against Gabryszak.

“From a procedural basis, it’s a huge win for the defense,” Terrence M. Connors, one of Gabryszak’s lawyers, said Thursday.

The court rulings came just days before a state ethics commission publicly accused the former Democratic lawmaker of lewd behavior toward staff members.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics also claims staff members were forced to spend as much as 80 percent of their work time on Gabryszak’s political campaigns.

The joint commission doesn’t have the power to levy fines or file charges, but its report will go to the Legislative Ethics Commission, a panel that does have the authority to penalize ex-legislators such as Gabryszak. A source familiar with the commission’s powers said Gabryszak could face up to $20,000 in fines.

The panel also could refer the matter to a prosecutor, a district attorney or State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who might be interested in possible criminal charges related to the allegation that Gabryszak’s Assembly staff spent work time on his campaigns.

Gabryszak, 64, resigned in January 2014, shortly after the sexual harassment complaints became public.

In its report, the joint commission provides a laundry list of incidents suggesting the former assemblyman acted inappropriately with female staff members.

In one instance, a woman who worked in Gabryszak’s Cheektowaga office said he “grabbed her and tried to kiss her.”

In another instance, a female staffer only five months on the job said the lawmaker invited her to sleep with him and made numerous sexual comments, including a claim that he had a tattoo on his private parts.

Overall, more than a half-dozen female staff members said they were repeatedly subjected to crude remarks and behavior by the assemblyman.

“His conduct was a deplorable exhibition of how not to act in public service – inappropriate sexual conduct towards employees and letting the public foot the bill to advance his own political ambitions,” said Walter McClure, a spokesman for the joint commission.

Mark F. Glaser, an Albany attorney who represented Gabryszak in connection with the commission probe, declined to comment on the report.

As Gabryszak’s case moves forward, it’s possible he will have three fewer lawsuits to address. At this point, it’s not clear if the women – Trina Tardone, Emily Trimper and Kristy L. Mazurek – will appeal Troutman’s decision

John P. Bartolomei, the Niagara Falls lawyer representing all six women, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Troutman dismissed the three cases because of the three-year statute of limitations on the women’s claims, not because of the credibility of their allegations

“Our position from the beginning was that the claims against Dennis were exaggerated, and the State Supreme Court has ruled that three cases should be dismissed outright,” Connors said.

Troutman also dismissed dozens of claims in the other three suits, but preserved the women’s right to sue Gabryszak for sexual discrimination. Those three women – Kimberly Snickles, Jamie L. Campbell and Annalise C. Freling – also have a suit against Gabryszak and the state in the Court of Claims.

Caitrin Kennedy, the seventh staff member to accuse Gabryszak, is suing her former boss and the state in U.S. District Court. Her case is still pending.