By Bruce DePuyt
A Maryland lawmaker and the man she accuses of touching her inappropriately both claimed on Tuesday that a newly-surfaced video of their interaction at an Annapolis bar bolsters their very different accounts of the events.
Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) played the video, shot by an overhead security camera at Castlebay Irish Pub, for reporters at a State House news conference. She claimed the March 1 video “confirms my allegation” against lobbyist Gilbert J. Genn.
“The footage clearly shows him placing a hand on my back and sliding it down my body,” she said. “I am grateful to have videotaped evidence proving my account to be true.”
Genn, conceding nothing, released a statement saying: “During the entire one minute and 26 seconds, I never ran my hand down her back. I never grabbed her tush. I never groped her. My hand was on her back for the first four seconds while I leaned in to tell her she would still be a good election administrator when she laughed. I never had any other physical contact with her that night, for the next one minute and 21 seconds on the video, or at any other time.”
Kagan’s accusations against Genn, a former Montgomery County lawmaker and a partner in the Annapolis lobbying firm BellamyGenn, are now the subject of a review by the General Assembly’s director of human resources.
The video shows Genn touching Kagan with his left hand at the beginning of the clip. Whether he touches her rear end, as she has claimed, and the amount of pressure he exerts, is hard to tell on the grainy video.
What was clear after the two former colleagues made competing statements about the images is that the matter is likely to remain a source of public acrimony, underscoring the General Assembly’s deliberations on a bill that would improve the institution’s ability to investigate and sanction lawmakers, lobbyists and others in the universe of state government who engage in inappropriate behavior.
That measure, backed by legislative leaders, is a key priority for the women’s caucus, which has been meeting for months to study the issue, scour other states for best practices and make final recommendations to the legislature.
Genn demanded that Kagan remove her allegations against him from her Facebook page. “Senator Kagan owes me and my family an apology,” he said. “(H)er false allegations… will always be there anytime someone Googles my name. That damage is permanent and irreparable, and my counsel is reviewing what can be done about it.”
Genn has engaged former Del. Timothy F. Maloney to be his attorney.
Kagan said there will no apology. “He is a serial harasser and groper,” she said. His past denials are “lies.”
Asked if Genn should be legally barred from lobbying, she said, “There are conversations that are ongoing about consequences for Mr. Genn.”
The video undercuts claims made by both of them.
In his initial statement to the media about the incident, Genn said he had a brief interaction with Kagan as he left the bar, adding, “It was crowded and noisy. I was carrying my coat, umbrella and belongings when I left… I did not run my hand down her back or down to her tush.” In the video, Genn’s hands are empty.
In her early accounts to reporters, Kagan said: “I turned my body toward Justin [Fiore, her former chief of staff, who was present], kind of wanting to freeze Gil out, to send the message, ‘I’m in a conversation, leave now, please.’” In the video, Kagan briefly recoils after he touches her, but she stays close to Genn, engaging in animated conversation, for at least 75 seconds.
Kagan said she has heard from six other women — current and former legislators and lobbyists — who have had unwanted interactions with Genn, and she expressed the hope that her willingness to come forward will embolden some of them to do likewise.
Genn released a statement from former Del. Carmen M. Amedori (R-Carroll), who was also a one-time member of the Maryland Parole Commission. She calls Genn “proper, courteous, appropriate, outgoing (and) very sharp. … In 20 years, he never touched me in any inappropriate way or said anything to me that made me feel uncomfortable.”
In an apparent dig at Kagan, Amedori writes, “If we still have a viable Constitution that allows one a presumption of innocence, then the appropriate venue is to file a complaint where one is brought to answer the charges, not to launder one’s political opportunism in the press. What happens if the charges don’t pan out as presented?”
While the investigation spawned by the interaction at Castlebay moves forward to an unknown conclusion, both combatants signaled that they are, at least in part, ready to move on.
“I harbor no ill will toward Senator Kagan,” Genn wrote. “I have known her for over 30 years. We served together. We have worked on issues together. Each year, I have been the one lobbyist who attends her fundraisers, year in and year out. I continue to support the legislation that Senator Kagan supports that will also provide a strong, independent body to fairly and impartially consider sexual harassment claims.”
Kagan, speaking to a bank of TV cameras, declared, “I’m done with this.” She encouraged reporters to cover her “life-saving” 911 reform legislation and some of the other bills she is pushing as the General Assembly session nears its April 9 conclusion.