Ethics panel decides to probe allegations against Wendy Rogers

Julia Shumway//February 4, 2021

Ethics panel decides to probe allegations against Wendy Rogers

Julia Shumway//February 4, 2021

Wendy Rogers
Wendy Rogers

The Senate Ethics Committee decided this evening to launch a formal investigation into a complaint filed against freshman Sen. Wendy Rogers.

The unanimous vote by three Republicans and two Democrats followed more than an hour of closed-door discussions in executive session, in which the members received legal advice. 

The decision authorizes committee chairman Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye to lead the investigation, issue subpoenas or retain outside attorneys to represent the committee. Rogers must have a hearing before the committee within 20 days.

Rogers, in a written response to the committee, dismissed Polloni’s complaint as untrue, and said he didn’t follow Senate rules in submitting it. 

Merely days into the legislative session, Michael Polloni, Rogers’ former assistant, filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee on Jan. 21, alleging the senator forced him to resign following an altercation with her.

In his complaint, Polloni outlined a pattern of verbal abuse that began shortly after he was hired on Dec. 7 last year and escalated after he took a required sick leave after contracting Covid on Jan. 3.

He alleged that Rogers told him to lose weight so he’d look better behind the desk when people came into her office and that she made inappropriate comments about his sister’s sexuality and his aunt’s political beliefs. She also repeatedly asked him to do campaign work, including contacting campaign donors, on state time, he said. 

Polloni said Rogers’ behavior toward him worsened after he became ill. 

“When I had COVID-19, Senator Rogers demanded that I should be working and when I told her that I couldn’t work she got upset,” the complaint said.

Rogers expressed doubt as to whether he was really sick, according to the complaint. And when he told her he was cleared to return to work, she asked him whether he had spent the previous two weeks doing nothing, Polloni said. 

The next day, Polloni learned that Rogers moved his personal belongings into drawers and broke an Eagle Scout award. She pulled him into her office for a conversation and proceeded to yell at him, standing so close that he could feel her spittle on his face, according to the complaint. 

During that conversation, Polloni said he opened the door to call for another assistant because he felt unsafe, but Rogers slammed the door and could have broken his hand if he hadn’t moved it. She eventually let him call for the majority staffer who supervisors assistants, and Polloni began writing up his account of what happened, he said. 

Within a matter of hours, he was summoned downstairs and given the choice to resign or be fired. Because a firing would prevent him from ever working for the state again, Polloni opted to resign, he said. 

Along with the Senate ethics complaint, Polloni filed a federal workplace discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He is also considering filing a police report.

Rogers denied the allegations. 

“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 wrote.

The Ethics Committee will next meet after the Senate floor session on Thursday, Feb. 11.