Last week, news broke that embattled Assemblyman Micah Kellner was found to have violated restrictions set for him following the revelations of alleged sexual harassment in his office earlier this year. The punishment for Kellner’s continuing to employee interns in his office, and also for the allegedly ongoing environment of sexual harassment, is that both Kellner’s Albany and district offices will be stripped of all staff and closed by the end of the month.
Setting aside the question of Kellner’s guilt, the sanctions wielded by the Assembly are not only punishing a member of their ranks; they are punishing the people of the Upper East Side.
Kellner is now a lame duck public servant until his term ends in January. What that means for people in his district is that they have one less resource, one less place to turn for help from the office that is supposed to serve them, and one less person advocating for their interests in the state legislature.
A state assembly member does not only make laws. Kellner’s colleagues who represent other Manhattan districts run free legal clinics, help constituents fight unfair evictions and deal with complex housing issues, attend community meetings to update people on what’s happening with their state government, and employ staffers who often become deeply invested in helping residents coming to their office looking for advocacy, answers and reassurance that the person they elected is in their corner.
When Kellner’s offices are closed, people in his district will have only one alternative resource for state issues – the offices of State Senator Liz Krueger, which serves a bigger piece of the Manhattan population than an assembly district, and is presumably already quite busy.
Whether or not Kellner deserves this latest punishment is irrelevant to the people of the Upper East Side who will find themselves with limited outlets and resources at the state level for the rest of the year. If Kellner will not resign, and the Assembly lacks the will or ability to fire him, his punishment should take a different form – reduced salary; current staff replaced by an outside hiring committee; a proxy installed to run the day-to-day business at his district office. There are surely many options, but one that leaves Upper East Siders without a voice in their state government is simply unacceptable.
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