By Bruce DePuyt
Lobbyist Gilbert J. Genn is pushing back against allegations he inappropriately touched a female member of the Maryland General Assembly in a late-night incident in an Annapolis bar last week. That lawmaker, Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), maintains that Genn, a former colleague in the House of Delegates, brushed her back and “tush” in a manner that she considered “completely inappropriate.”
The competing accounts center around an encounter the two had on Thursday night at a karaoke event at Castlebay Irish Pub in Annapolis. It comes amid a months-long push, backed by legislative leaders, to reduce sexual harassment in and around the State House and to improve the Assembly’s ability to investigate complaints that arise.
In a statement released on Monday, Genn said he “absolutely and categorically denies Senator Kagan’s allegation against me.”
“I kept my hands to myself,” the statement reads. “I didn’t even shake her hand. I did not run my hand down her back or down to her tush. And I especially and consciously avoided the all too common Annapolis legislative ‘hug’ many legislators use to greet one another. I am 100 percent certain of these facts,” Genn wrote.
In an interview, Kagan maintained that Genn touched her in an inappropriate fashion.
“Gil Genn touched me the other night and it was not for the first time,” Kagan said. “It wasn’t a pat. He put his hand on my back and slid it all the way down to my tush.”
Genn’s denials “are hogwash,” she said.
In his statement, Genn says his hands were full when he left the bar, so he could not have touched Kagan in the manner she describes.
But the senator has a different recollection of events. “I introduced Genn to the person I was in conversation with, my former chief of staff… and he shook his hand, which meant that he had at least one hand free.”
Kagan said she informed Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) about the encounter and he encouraged her to file a formal complaint the legislature’s human resources officer, which she has done.
In his statement, Genn said he “welcomes a fair and impartial inquiry by the State Ethics Commission to investigate her false allegation.”
Kagan said three women — a former lobbyist and two current legislators — have reached out to her since her allegations against Genn become public.
“Since the press has covered my statement and the fact that I filed a report, I have gotten multiple calls [from women] sharing their experience.” She said she does not know if the others plan to participate in any future investigation.
Genn, a lawyer who represented Montgomery County in the House from 1987 to 1999 and was a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he supports the burgeoning national effort to prevent and call out sexual harassment.
“I strongly support advancing the cause of the #MeToo movement in Maryland,” Genn said. “Women should be empowered to speak out against all forms of sexual harassment, inappropriate touching or other offensive behavior. We need a climate where no woman has to sit alone in silence, fear reprisal or worry about jeopardizing her career if she speaks out.”
The lobbyist said his “one regret” is that he told a Baltimore Sun reporter last week that Kagan’s allegations were “delusional.” In hindsight, Genn said, he should not have used that term. “I wish I could retract it, and I apologize for it.”
Genn is a partner in the Annapolis firm BellamyGenn. Managing partner Lorenzo Bellamy released a statement over the weekend saying, “I am concerned about the allegations raised by Senator Kagan. I have the utmost personal and professional respect for all of my clients and legislators. I do not condone and have zero tolerance for any inappropriate behavior.”