Politics

Esty Used Personal Email in Severance With Abusive Staffer

Office threatened to involve Capitol Police over news outlet’s publication of personal email address

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., announced Monday that she would not run for re-election after much criticism over how she handled complaints against her former chief of staff who threatened to kill another staffer. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 3:16 p.m. | Rep. Elizabeth Esty is not running for re-election, but the fallout over how she handled an abusive staffer’s firing continued to dog the embattled Connecticut Democrat on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the congresswoman’s office provided Connecticut Public Radio with a copy of the signed severance agreement between Esty and former Chief of Staff Tony Baker, which contained her personal email address. But after the document was published, her office notified the radio station that it had sent the wrong file and asked that it be replaced with a redacted version. 

The station initially declined the request, pointing out that Esty had used the address for official business. After a second request was turned down, Esty’s office threatened to involve the U.S. Capitol Police. 

“After consulting with our attorney, we strongly believe there is no legitimate public interest in disclosing the Congresswoman’s personal email address,” Esty’s current chief of staff, Tim Daly, wrote the station. “The sole purpose in our view would be to allow people to use it to harass her. If you still refuse to use the redacted version, we will have no other option, than to refer the matter to the Capitol Police.”

The radio station has since redacted the email address, but said it was “reserving the right the repost the original.”

Asked for further comment on the matter, Daly said in an email: “We don’t have anything to add to whats already been reported.” 

It took Esty three months in 2016 to dismiss Baker after she first learned he had repeatedly harassed and even left a death threat over voice mail to a senior aide in Esty’s office, Anna Kain.

When Esty finally cut ties with Baker, she co-signed a “confidential severance and release agreement” that paid him $5,000 in severance, granted him a student loan repayment waiver, and included a letter of recommendation touting his “considerable skills” that he used to land a job as Ohio director of the gun control group Sandy Hook Promise.

Esty has personally reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for the $5,000 in severance.

She announced Monday she would retire at the end of her term, following a weekend of backlash from both Democrats and Republicans over her actions. 

It is unclear why Esty used her personal email on the contact line of a severance agreement between Baker and her congressional office. Congressional offices are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, so if she wanted to keep any correspondence between Baker and herself hidden from public scrutiny, her office email would have provided such a shield.

Daly, her current chief of staff, insisted to the radio station that his boss’s “personal email is not for official business,” adding that it was “simply a conduit to receive this piece of information in this one instance as a party to this agreement.”

The station had earlier redacted Baker’s email address on the document per his request because he “did not consent to the release of the document,” the station reported.

Earlier Monday, Esty requested the House Ethics Committee conduct an inquiry into whether she “violated any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct applicable to a Member of the House.”

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