Pressure mounts for Democratic Rep. Esty to resign over violent abuse accusations against top staffer
Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty has faced growing calls to resign over her handling of harassment accusations against a top staffer. (CQ Roll Call via AP Images, File)
The pressure on Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty to resign over her handling of harassment and abuse claims against a top staffer mounted this weekend, with fellow Democrats calling on her to leave office.
The three-term House member has been under fire since Thursday, following reports in The Connecticut Post and the Washington Post that state Esty allowed a chief of staff to remain employed despite knowledge of allegations that he physically harmed and threatened to “kill” another staffer.
According to the allegations, then-Chief of Staff Tony Baker called a female staffer with whom he had a romantic relationship nearly 50 times on May 5, 2016, and once punched the woman while in Esty’s Washington office.
In addition, the woman, Anna Kain, provided a voicemail tape to The Washington Post in which Baker purportedly said: “You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you.”
Esty reportedly became aware of the situation within a week but met with lawyers instead of firing Baker. She acknowledged that she did not adequately protect Kain, has vowed to "do better" and has apologized but says she would not resign.
On Saturday, Connecticut Senate President Martin Looney was among at least six state Democrats calling for Esty to resign, following such calls from Republicans and others.
“Congresswoman Esty has long been a conscientious leader in the fight against harassment and abuse in the workplace,” Looney told the Connecticut Post. “However... if the facts of this matter involving former staff of the congresswoman’s office are as they are alleged to be in recent news articles, then Congresswoman Esty should do the right thing and resign.”
Mae Flexer, a Democratic state senator, was among the first to call on Esty to resign.
“It was devastating to learn about the situation,” Flexer told the newspaper. “The congresswoman failed her staff on every level when she decided to protect an alleged abuser instead of them. It’s completely unacceptable.”
The others state Democrats asking Esty to resign reportedly include state Sens. Cathy Osten and Paul Doyle; Susan Bysiewicz, a Democratic candidate for governor; and Chris Mattei, a Democratic candidate for state attorney general.
Esty fired Baker in 2016, but gave him a $5,000 severance and a positive job recommendation.
“First and foremost, let me say to this survivor that I am so sorry,” Esty last week in a statement. “I am sorry that this incident in my office hurt (Kain), her friends and family, and many of my present and former staffers.”
Esty also reportedly repaid the $5,000 and said she demanded counseling for Baker.
Among the Republicans quick to call for Esty’s resignation was Manny Santos, a former Republican mayor in Connecticut and Esty’s presumptive opponent in November’s election.
“There are two people that share the blame in this tragedy: Tony Baker, the abuser, and Elizabeth Esty, the boss,” he reportedly said Friday.