A recent story in the Times Union of Albany detailed the sad saga of Buffalo-area Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, who seems unable to grasp the fundamentals of respect for women with whom he associates in his government office.
According to the newspaper, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver years ago engineered a program requiring members of his chamber to sit in on training on what constitutes sexual harassment. That seems like a program with value, particularly for a member of the Assembly. After all, how would it look for someone in that lofty position to act in a compromising manner with people of the opposite sex who come into contact with him?
As a matter of fact, it appears that members of Gabryszak’s inner circle know exactly how it looks, because he was required to take the training multiple times and still is accused of indiscretions.
Silver spokesman Michael Whyland told the newspaper that Gabryszak and every member of the Assembly, as well as their staffers, had biannual instruction on “what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior, office banter and joking on subjects involving sex.”
The instructor was a female law professor from New York Law School. The day-long training costs $2,500.
Still, four women who have worked in the Assembly insist Gabryszak sexually harassed them, and two others are expected to echo those claims.
Gabryszak is 62, and the women making the charges are in their 20s. The suggestion has been offered that the problem is a generational one — that younger members of the Assembly have a better understanding of general rules of conduct between men and women.
But it’s upsetting to hear that someone as influential as Gabryszak needs training on how not to talk to young women and seemingly fails to profit from the training.
This man is supposed to be one of the state’s moral leaders. He is creating legislation that should protect individuals from inequities the likes of which he, himself, may be guilty. If we can’t trust our legislators to act appropriately, whom can we trust?
And, perhaps as significant, why wouldn’t he instinctively know, in this day of supposedly increased enlightenment, that addressing women in that way is far out of bounds?
It is reminiscent of the slurs that African Americans and other racial groups have had to endure as white America learned the lessons of interpersonal respect.
We can only hope that people like Gabryszak will learn the lessons so earnestly — and at a cost to taxpayers — offered. He and others in government are role models for so many people. Unwelcome innuendos should not stain the offices of the State Capitol.
Voters in his district should seriously consider his qualifications for his position next time they are asked.