Bronx City Councilman Andy King's purple reign of sexual harassment and bullying against staffers and his defiance of those who tried to hold him accountable came to an end Oct. 5 when his colleagues voted 48-2 to expel him, making him just the second member of the body in the past 71 years to be ejected from office.
The Council last October opted not to exercise its rarely-invoked power to kick out a misbehaving member, instead voting to suspend him for a month, fine him $15,000, and require that all actions taken by his office for the remainder of his term be approved by an outside monitor.
Didn't Pay, Kept Sinning
But the City Council's Committee on Standards and Ethics reported Sept. 29 that not only did the Councilman fail to pay the fine and ignore the monitor except to verbally abuse her, but further evidence of his misconduct came to light.
"Last year this committee made every effort to provide Council Member King the chance to rehabilitate himself and remediate the hostile and unacceptable situation in his office, but he frustrated all of these efforts, including by refusing to cooperate with the monitor in any meaningful way and disrespecting her," said the panel's Chairman, Steven Matteo. "This committee finds the situation to be beyond remediation and therefore finds no alternative but to recommend expulsion."
Mr. King is a Democrat and Mr. Matteo is a Republican from Staten Island. But the evidence of conduct that abused the Councilman's office, his staff, and the Council's disciplinary system was so egregious and extensive that fellow Bronx Democrat Vanessa Gibson was among the five committee members who unanimously voted to boot him.
Expulsion was also endorsed by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who said during the remote hearing that resulted in his ban, "King's behavior is unfixable, and if we do not take the action recommended by the committee, we are likely to be back here in a few months."
Six days earlier, Mr. Johnson, who voted against expulsion a year ago, said in a statement, "This is the third time this committee has had to discipline the Council Member, and yet he continues to show a blatant disregard for the rules and policies put in place to protect staff and the integrity of this body."
Mr. King responded by hinting that he was being made a martyr and filed a racial-discrimination lawsuit over the discharge in Manhattan Federal Court.
Mayor de Blasio indicated he would announce a special election to fill the Bronx seat in the 12th Council District
Outcry Over Earlier Slide
The decision not to vote him out of the Council last fall--despite the committee having found that after sexually harassing a female staffer in 2015 and then terminating her for reporting it, Mr. King had "repeatedly intimidated and punished staff" to prevent them from cooperating with an internal probe of her charges—sparked an angry City Hall rally last fall in which 70 female staffers and their supporters held signs calling for a "Harassment Free NYC."
The continuing inquiry by the Standards and Ethics Committee produced new evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Matteo, but further proceedings against Mr. King—who during a TV interview last December compared the probe to "a lynching"—were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the interim, new revelations and allegations emerged. In July, the New York Post reported that a former staffer, Shana Melius, filed a Federal lawsuit in which she claimed that during a meeting last year, Mr. King's Chief of Staff, Comy Lewis, had screamed at her in the Councilman's presence but wasn't admonished. After she later admitted during a staff meeting in Mr. King's apartment that she had cooperated with the Council probe, she accused him of retaliating against her by transferring her from her lower Manhattan office to his district office in The Bronx, which she said increased her daily commute by up to two hours.
The Council later censured him for retaliating against her and other whistleblowers who had cooperated with its probe, but The Post reported that she subsequently quit her job anyway.
Mocked Another Staffer
The ethics committee's most-recent investigation also concluded that Mr. King harassed another staffer who three years ago sought time off to care for complications related to menstrual bleeding. Mr. Matteo said the Councilman joked that she should "put a Band-aid on it." When she mentioned her situation to others, Gothamist quoted Mr. Matteo as saying that Mr. King "forced the staffer to take unnecessary, unwanted, indefinite and unpaid medical leave, which he described as 'putting her out'" for complaining.
When the Bronx Councilman ignored for three months her inquiries as to when she could return to work, she resigned and got another job.
Mr. Matteo said the committee found that in the summer of 2019, Mr. King misappropriated $2,000 of a $9,500 allocation of Council money to a member of his staff by "demanding that staffer kick back $2,000 of it to him," the Daily News reported.
Among the charges previously substantiated against him was that he allowed his wife, Neva Shillingford-King—a ranking official of Services Employees International Union Local 1199—to carry out Council business from his Bronx office.
Predecessor No Bargain
Mr. King, whose term was due to expire next year under the city's Term Limits Law, first gained office in 2013 after predecessor Larry Seabrook was convicted on Federal corruption charges.
The last time a Council Member was expelled from office, he was also a lame duck, though a distinctly different one. Benjamin Davis was in his last two months in the Council following a change in membership rules that led him to unsuccessfully seek a State Senate seat, when the Council in November 1949 banned the longtime top official in the American Communist Party for his conviction, along with 10 colleagues, for conspiring to teach and advocate the forcible overthrow of the U.S. Government.
The Council in 1979 seriously considered expelling Eugene Mastropieri on garden-variety corruption charges, but ultimately settled instead for censuring him. Less than two years later, the shadowy Brooklyn legislator pleaded guilty to helping three law clients conceal nearly a half-million dollars in income and evade more than $250,000 in taxes, under a deal that sentenced him to three years in prison.