Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) announced Monday that she will no longer seek re-election this year in light of revelations that she took months to fire a top aide accused of harassment and abuse.
Esty asked the House Ethics Committee earlier on Monday to investigate whether she had committed any wrongdoings in her dismissal of Tony Baker in 2016. Several news outlets reported last week that Esty kept Baker on her payroll for three months after she learned he had harassed a female staffer and threatened to kill her.
“[I] have determined that it is in the best interest of my constituents and my family to end my time in Congress at the end of this year and not seek re-election,” Esty, a vocal advocate of the Me Too movement, wrote in an announcement on Facebook.
“Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace,” she added. “In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better.”
In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.)
In addition to facing criticism for the length of time she took to fire Baker, Esty was condemned for giving him a $5,000 severance payment and letter of recommendation. She also reportedly signed a nondisclosure agreement preventing her from speaking ill of him or discussing why he left. The congresswoman has since said she’ll repay the severance to the U.S. Treasury.
Esty was aware of Baker’s behavior within a week of his accuser taking action against him, according to emails and recordings The Washington Post obtained. In May 2016, former Esty staffer Anna Kain, who had previously dated Baker, alerted police about a threatening voicemail she had received from him.
“You better fucking reply to me or I will fucking kill you,” Baker told her in the message, according to the recording obtained by the Post. Kain was awarded a restraining order against him.
Kain also told Esty that Baker had punched, berated and sexually harassed her in Esty’s Capitol Hill office while she worked for the congresswoman in 2014, according to the emails.
Baker went on to work for the gun control advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise, but was dismissed from the group last week after media outlets contacted him about the sexual harassment allegations.