A state senator accused of workplace harassment said Monday that a complaint filed against her isn’t true, and it wouldn’t violate Senate rules even if it were.
In a two-page letter sent this afternoon, Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, urged the Senate Ethics Committee to dismiss the complaint filed by her former legislative assistant. Michael Polloni, a former Rogers campaign volunteer who began working as her legislative assistant in early December, accused Rogers of repeated verbal abuse that escalated to her physically accosting him on his last day of work on Jan. 14.
“I believe the complaint against me is a complete fabrication by an outgoing, brand new employee who worked only one official day for the state of Arizona after the swearing in of senators,” Rogers wrote.
In his complaint, Polloni wrote that Rogers berated him over his weight, his lesbian sister and his liberal aunt, took his personal belongings and broke an Eagle Scout plaque. Her behavior allegedly ramped up after Polloni contracted Covid on Jan. 3 and had to stay home for 10 days.
Rogers pestered him to work each of those 10 days, Polloni said. When he was finally able to return to work on Jan. 14, she questioned whether he had ever really been sick.
“What have you been doing for the past two weeks? Sitting on your butt doing nothing?” he remembers her asking.
On Jan. 14, Polloni said Rogers pulled him into her office and yelled at him, standing so close that he could feel her spittle on his face, according to the complaint.
“We are at war, Mikey, do you not understand that? You do not understand half of what I know. You were not told what is going to be happening in the coming months,” she yelled, according to his complaint.
This scared Polloni, who tried opening the door to call for another assistant. Rogers slammed it shut, and Polloni is convinced his hand would have been crushed if he hadn’t moved it.
Hours later, the Senate told him he had the choice between being terminated or resigning. He chose to resign, to remain eligible for employment with the state in the future.
In her response, Rogers dismisses all the allegations as untrue. She also cites a procedural issue with his complaint, that Polloni didn’t name the law or Senate ethics rule he believes she violated, as proof the complaint should be dismissed.
Senate ethics rules only prohibit violating state or federal law or “any improper conduct that adversely reflects upon the Senate,” Rogers wrote, and she argues that the allegations against her don’t rise to that level.
“I believe the allegation by the Complainant alleging I created a hostile work environment is not true; therefore, the alleged, untrue allegations do not constitute improper conduct that adversely reflects upon the Senate. This alleged personnel matter is not a matter of Senate ethics,” she concluded.
Sen. Sine Kerr, the Buckeye Republican who chairs the Ethics Committee, will review the complaint and response before recommending any action by the rest of the committee.