A male aide to Councilman Vincent Gentile filed a formal complaint this
week charging the Bay Ridge legislator with sexual harassment.
Sources said the complaint alleges that Gentile made unwanted advances
toward his chief of staff, specifically pressuring him to share a hotel
room and accompany the councilman home.
There is no allegation of physical contact between Gentile and his accuser,
who sources identified as John Martin, 26.
Martin could not be reached for comment.
Gentile said on Wednesday that he had no knowledge of the claim except
what had been told to him by reporters in the previous 24 hours. He denied
having done anything inappropriate and said he did not know either who
had filed the claim or the nature of the complaint.
“It’s absurd,” said Gentile, 45, who during a special election
in 2003 fended off rumors that he was gay. “We know how we conduct
ourselves in this office,” the councilman said Tuesday.
Asked if he was gay, Gentile told The Bay Ridge Paper, “Absolutely
Gentile went on to say that questions about his sexuality were misguided
and revealed a double standard.
“The presumption is that if you’re a man in your 40s and single,
you must be gay,” he said. “If it was a female in her 40s, this
wouldn’t even be an issue. It’s the press asking this question.”
Council spokesman Paul Rose confirmed that a claim was received on Monday
by an Equal Employment Opportunity officer and will be investigated by
the council’s Fair Intervention Committee. Rose would not comment
on the nature of the claim or the identity of the complaintant.
Sources said the complaint stemmed from invitations to share hotel rooms
on a personal trip to Maine and a business trip to Washington, D.C.
Martin resigned two weeks ago, Gentile said, to study for the Law School
Admission Test. Although the resignation was to be effective Sept. 28,
Martin left the office as his name began surfacing as the source of the
As reporters questioned Gentile in his Bay Ridge office on Tuesday night,
Martin was still at work. He left shortly after and did not come to work
on Wednesday, Gentile staff members said.
Martin is the third Gentile aide since the start of summer to leave the
office. Former spokesman Scott Gastel resigned in June. He was later hired
as a spokesman for Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Gastel declined to say
why he quit his post with Gentile and also declined to comment on the
complaint against his former boss.
Sam Cooper, another Gentile aide, left shortly after for what he has called
a hiatus to work on the John Kerry campaign in Florida. Cooper did not
return calls seeking comment for this article.
Martin, whose father retired after 40 years as a city police officer,
began working for Gentile a little more than a year ago. He was a community
liaison, spending several evenings each week at civic association and
community board meetings, before being promoted two months ago to Gentile’s
chief of staff.
Asked a general question about the complaint, Gentile said on Tuesday,
“If it’s John Martin — I don’t even know that much.”
Sources said that the trip to Washington, which had been scheduled for
this week as part of a delegation of council members, was canceled on
Wednesday, after word of the harassment allegations broke. The excursion
to Maine, a source said, was a personal trip by Martin to attend a friend’s
After the Fair Intervention Committee gathers information — from
Gentile, the accuser and witnesses — the claim, if considered valid,
will be heard by the Council’s Standards and Ethics committee.
On Wednesday, Gentile said he called the committee but was rebuffed in
his attempts to find out about the claim. He maintained that nobody would
even confirm its existence.
Rose could not offer details as to when the investigation would begin
The news comes in the same week that the committee began closed-door hearings
on harassment charges filed against Queens Councilman Allan Jennings,
who is charged with harassing at least four women, two from his own staff.
“The council has a strong anti-harassment policy and we take this
very seriously,” said Rose.
The allegations, if proven to be valid, could be costly to Gentile, a
Democrat, who is up for re-election next November in the hotly contested
and decidedly conservative district, which includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights
Gentile, a former prosecutor and three-term state senator, defeated Republican
challenger Pat Russo by a significant margin last November. But earlier
last year, a six-way special election for the seat — which was vacated
by Republican Marty Golden after Golden defeated Gentile’s bid for
re-election to the state Senate in 2002 — was clinched by less than
30 votes over Rosemarie O’Keefe, a Republican.
That election was marked by rumors, published in a blind item in the Page
Six gossip column in the New York Post, that Gentile was frequenting a
bar and restaurant in Manhattan called Lips. Described in a review as
“lightly risque,” the West Village lounge features nightly drag
A former spokesman for Gentile said at the time that the gossip had been
leaked by supporters of Joanne Seminara, a challenger for the seat, who
denied the charge.
Others suggested the Gentile rumor was spread by Tom Duane — now
a councilman, then the only openly gay member of the state Senate —
because he was angry over Gentile’s vote against the Lesbian and
Gay Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA). Gentile was one
of only three Democrats in the state to vote against that bill, which
passed by a vote of 34-26.
A Duane spokesman at the time denied the Manhattan legislator had anything
to do with the Post item.
A few days after SONDA vote, Page Six ran an item that all but identified
Gentile as a “lame-duck state senator — who was spotted in a
gay bar” in Albany and who “voted against the gay rights bill.”
Gentile called the item “hogwash” and told The Paper at the
time that he “would not dignify with a response” the question
of whether or not he was gay.
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