Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) did not immediately move to fire her chief of staff, who was accused of abusing another staffer, and recommended the chief of staff for another job, a decision Esty says she now regrets.
“I was conflicted at (that) time, but less so now,” Esty told the Connecticut Post on Thursday. “He had made efforts to get counseling and treatment. I believe in second chances for people.”
She also said that she wished staff had come to her sooner with allegations of abuse.
“I certainly regret that people didn’t come to me sooner,” she said. “It continues to trouble me that they felt they couldn’t. We need to change that. I am changing that.”
On May 5, 2016, Esty’s then-chief of staff, Tony Baker, left a threatening voicemail for fellow staffer Anna Klein, according to the Washington Post.
“You better f—–g reply to me or I will f—–g kill you,” Baker said in the recording obtained by the Washington Post.
Baker had also allegedly punched Kain at Esty’s Washington, D.C. office and screamed at her, telling her that if she reported his behavior he would keep her from getting a new job, according to an affidavit obtained by the Connecticut Post.
Esty found out about Baker’s threatening May 5 voicemail about a week after he left it, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post. Esty then spoke to Kain, who detailed Baker’s behavior, and Esty asked a friend to investigate Baker’s background, according to the Washington Post.
The investigation uncovered a pattern of abusive behavior, and Esty fired Baker on July 20, 2016, according to the Connecticut Post. He was barred from being at the office as of July 24, 2016, but accompanied Esty to the Democratic convention before his final departure, according to the Washington Post.
Esty told the Washington Post she consulted with the Office of House Employment to negotiate Baker’s departure. She said she felt pressured to sign a nondisclosure agreement with Baker. The agreement had secrecy provisions, gave Baker a severance and included a draft recommendation letter from Esty, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the agreement.
Baker went on to work at Sandy Hook Promise, though he has since left. Esty told the Connecticut Post that she did not try to find Baker a job at the group but supplied him with a recommendation as was dictated by the nondisclosure agreement.