Veteran Staffers Left Unemployed After Micah Kellner's Office Shuts Down
UPPER EAST SIDE — The office of embattled Assemblyman Micah Kellner closed Monday — leaving a pair of veteran staffers out of work and locals essentially without constituent services for the rest of Kellner's term.
Kellner's chief of staff Anthony Morenzi, who spent nearly 30 years working in the state Assembly, and director of communications Brice Peyre were both terminated as part of a second round of sanctions leveled at Kellner by Speaker Sheldon Silver over sexual harassment accusations.
An Assembly staffer who did not want to be named said Morenzi plans to retire, while Peyre has no immediate plans for employment. Both Peyre and Morenzi declined to comment.
A third staffer who served as Kellner's community liaison left the office shortly before the new sanctions were announced.
Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland confirmed that the office had closed, but did not respond to specific questions about the termination of staff. Kellner's term ends on Dec. 31.
“His offices are closed effective close of business on June 30 and his staff allocation has been eliminated, consistent with the unanimous recommendation of the bi-partisan Assembly Ethics & Guidance Committee,” Whyland said in an email.
“Calls to his office will be handled by Assembly central staff and forwarded to Assemblyman Kellner as appropriate so he can address any constituent matters.”
In the past, when other lawmakers' offices have closed, it was common for staffers to be absorbed into other Assembly offices, experts said.
“There’s been a predisposition to find a place for staff,” said Gerald Benjamin, director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at SUNY New Paltz and an expert on state government. “Usually the decision is to make sure that there’s no collateral damage to staff because they are employees of the Legislature and a certain amount of loyalty is expected.”
Morenzi was the district office manager for Upper East Side Assemblyman Pete Grannis from 1981 to 2007, and became special assistant to Grannis when the assemblyman was appointed commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2007. He started working for Kellner in September 2011.
Peyre has been involved in New York politics and government since 1993. He served as press secretary for Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, and also held leadership positions in the public affairs departments of the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the city’s Department of Transportation. Peyre joined Kellner’s staff in April 2013.
Benjamin said Silver may be imposing harsher penalties in the Kellner case because he's still smarting from criticism of his own handling of sexual harassment in the Vito Lopez case.
“The speaker is saying that there are consequences for harassment — you won’t have any status in this body or any support here," he said.
The new sanctions by Silver, announced on June 11, came on the heels of two new accusations of sexual harassment by Kellner, as well as the revelation Kellner violated one of the original sanctions handed down in December by continuing to employ an intern in his district office.
Kellner has released statements saying he is appealing both rulings, but not did respond to a request for comment.