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Md. Sen. Kagan accuses lobbyist of improper touching

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Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, D-Montgomery.

ANNAPOLIS — A state senator is publicly accusing a lobbyist and former legislator of improperly touching her in an Annapolis bar and restaurant.

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, D-Montgomery, released a statement accusing Gil Genn of inappropriately touching her during a karaoke event Thursday night at Castlebay Irish Pub. The statement was released less than a day after Kagan posted on her Facebook page that a then-unnamed lobbyist “put his hand on my back and slid it down down down.”

“I was just so astounded,” said Kagan in a phone interview as she was headed to the office of human resources for the legislature, where she said she intended to file a complaint.

Kagan said she was at the pub for weekly karaoke and drinking a club soda when Genn, a lobbyist at Bellamy Genn Group, approached her, talking about the singing. That’s when she said he placed his hand on her.

“I turned my back to him and made it clear that the conversation was over,” Kagan said.

Kagan said she didn’t immediately react to Genn but that when he walked away she told others at the establishment about the incident.

“If he would do this to a senator who could help kill his bills, then he certainly would not hesitate to do this to a staffer or an intern who clearly is more vulnerable,” Kagan said.

Kagan said Genn has a history of inappropriately touching her dating back to when they both served in the House of Delegates. On several occasions during that time, she said, he touched her abdomen just below her breasts.

Genn, a former lawmaker who also represented Montgomery County, did not immediately respond to attempts to contact him.

“As managing partner, I am concerned about the allegations raised by Senator Kagan,” Lorenzo Bellamy of the lobbying firm said in a statement. “I have the utmost personal and professional respect for all of my clients and legislators. I do not condone and have zero tolerance for any inappropriate behavior.”

Genn, in an interview with the Baltimore Sun, denied the allegation and called Kagan’s account “delusional.”

“That’s exactly the kind of patronizing and dismissive thing a predator would say,” Kagan said.

Members of the General Assembly and staff have been engaged in an increasingly contentious debate over the extent to which sexual misconduct is a problem in the State House and whether existing policies are sufficient to give victims of sexual misbehavior avenues to report those incidents.

Kagan’s announcement comes a day after a former Montgomery County Democratic lawmaker publicly accused Del. Charles Barkley of inappropriately touching the arms and backs of women in Annapolis and calling him the “groper in chief.” Barkley said he was “disgusted” by the allegations made by former Del. Saqib Ali and strongly denied the allegations.

Kagan said she decided to comment publicly because of “courageous women all over the country have come forward since last fall to share their stories.”

“Unfortunately, there are too many women who, for fear of reprisal or career limitation, have needed to remain silent,” Kagan said in a statement she provided to the news media. “While the anonymous stories that have been covered by the press are valid and important, it is also critical to call out — by name — men who still fail to respect women’s boundaries. I will remain silent no more.”

It is not immediately clear how such a complaint will be handled.

The General Assembly’s human resources office is required under changes made in December to track all sexual harassment complaints it is made aware of and publish them in an annual report. The office, however, does not have jurisdiction over lobbyists. Complaints about lobbyists are handled through the Maryland State Ethics Commission.

A bill sponsored by Del. Ariana Kelly, D-Montgomery, would implement a number of recommendations made by the Legislative Women’s Caucus, including the creation of an independent investigator. Kelly said the caucus heard many complaints referencing incidents that happened in the past that went unreported.

“We heard that from so many people. That’s why we need independent investigators,” Kelly said of the bill, which has a hearing on Monday.

The bill also would require the state ethics commission to set up a system for holding lobbyists accountable for sexual-harassment.

Kelly said that right now there is no system to do that.

“This bill would change that,” she said.

Patrick Murray, chief of staff to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., said the presiding officer became aware of the incident by seeing Kagan’s post on social media. Kagan was approached in the morning and encouraged to file a report.

“We take allegations of inappropriate behavior very seriously,” Murray said.

 


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