Rodney Powis (via the website of his law firm, Maney, McConville, Liccardi & Powis, P.C.)
State Senator Simcha Felder’s chief of staff has been placed on leave following allegations that he drunkenly groped and sexually harassed a woman at a Republican fundraiser last week—behavior that was corroborated by two witnesses, and that one acquaintance says is “typical for him.”
The Times Union reports that Rodney C. Powis approached a female lobbyist at an Albany county campaign event for GOP Senator George Amedore last Thursday, and repeatedly made “aggressive and unsettling comments” about her status as a single mother. After allegedly suggesting that she have sex with another man at the event—”it was like he was trying to sell me to him,” the woman recalled—Powis allegedly put his hands on the woman’s right breast and buttocks, according to at least two others who say they were at the table at the time of the alleged groping.
“Then he announced to the table, ‘I just grabbed her boob,'” the victim told the Times Union. “I looked across the table to a woman who was with us and I mouthed the word ‘help.'” She says she left the table along with another woman, though Powis continued to pursue her until she was escorted from the event by the woman and her husband.
The husband, who reportedly knows Powis from their shared vacation destination in Lake George, told the Times Union that such behavior is “typical for him—he has one drink too many and goes over the edge.” Powis earns around $119,000 annually as chief of staff and lead counsel for Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, who previously gave the GOP a one-vote margin in the 63-member body. Powis also works as an attorney at a private law firm in Rensselaer County, though it’s believed that he attended the event as a representative for the state Senator.
A spokesperson for Felder tells Gothamist that the office is following “standard Senate procedure,” and has placed Powis on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. “These are serious allegations and were reported immediately,” Communications Director Sheri Tov said in a statement. “I cannot comment any further at this time.”
State Senator George Amedore initially told the Times Union that he couldn’t talk about the accusations because “I don’t know enough about it right now.” After the story was published, Amedore claimed that he reported the incident to Senate leadership, but would not specify when.
The state Senate’s sexual harassment policy likely requires an investigation into the allegations, because both Powis and the victim are “involved in the operation of the New York state Senate.” The Republican-led body has faced criticism over the last year for its handling of sexual harassment complaints, after Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan announced that state Senator Jeff Klein—the former IDC leader who was recently ousted by primary challenger Alessandra Biaggi—would not face an investigation into reports that he forcibly kissed a staff member.
Spokespersons for Flanagan, and for the Republican Senate Majority as a whole, did not respond to Gothamist’s request for comment. Felder is up for election in November after fending off a vigorous primary challenge last month.