Former staffer accuses Jeff Klein of forcing a kiss


State Sen. Jeffrey Klein is denying claims from a former policy analyst he forced her into a kiss soon after the state budget was approved in 2015.

Erica Vladimer told HuffPost the alleged incident happened in the early hours of April 1, 2015, when Klein and some of the staffers traveled to an Albany bar to celebrate their work on the budget. Vladimer said the two went outside the bar to smoke a cigarette, and it was there she claimed Klein grabbed her head and "shoved his tongue down my throat." 

Vladimer said she immediately rejected Klein's alleged advance, and later that evening told a friend about what she said happened. Vladimer didn't come forward earlier, she added, because she felt ashamed about what happened, and feared she caused the kiss to happen, according to the news outlet.

Two attorneys who represent Klein — Michael Zweig and Mark Goldberg from the Manhattan law firm Loeb & Loeb — issued a memorandum Wednesday just before the HuffPost piece published stating that while both Klein and Vladimer were outside smoking a cigarette, they were never out of sight of the people inside the bar, because the bar has large display windows looking out onto the street.

Even more, the attorneys claimed before the alleged incident, Vladimer had invited Klein to her family's house for a Passover Seder, which Klein's girlfriend — state Sen. Diane Savino — described as an "unprecedented" invitation that Klein declined.

"Of the female staff members we interviewed at the Independent Democratic Conference, none reported ever having felt uncomfortable, unsafe or threatened by Sen. Klein," according to the Loeb & Loeb memo. "They noted that Sen. Klein has been at the forefront of equal rights for women, hired many women in the past, given them senior roles, opportunities and significant responsibilities, and has maintained a safe work environment for female staff."

Vladimer told HuffPost she left her job soon after, but Klein's attorneys claimed she was planning to depart even before the alleged incident, according to conversations she was having with other staff members at the bar.

Lewis Kaminski, who plans to run against Klein in the upcoming primary elections, released a statement late Wednesday expressing his admiration for Vladimer, adding "she deserves our respect for showing this kind of courage and sharing her story in the face of what must be tremendous pressure."

"Like others, I take her account seriously, I believe her, and as a New Yorker and a constituent in the 34th District, I call on Sen. Klein to offer a more robust explanation," Kaminski said in the statement. "The 'don't believe the woman, it's not true' line isn't going to cut it."

Late Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement calling for an independent investigation into the claims, as suggested by state Sen. Liz Krueger.

"Every allegation of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously," Cuomo said. "I agree with Sen. Klein and with Sen. Krueger that this disturbing situation should be investigated, and I believe it shoud be done immediately and independently.