PROVIDENCE — Just one week before he faces a challenge for his seat representing District 47 in the General Election, Rep. Cale Keable has been removed from his leadership position in the State House pending “clarity,” on allegations of sexual harassment.
The four-term, 42-year-old representative has also been placed on administrative leave from his part-time job at the law firm Partridge Snow & Hahn.
The decision by Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to remove Keable from his role as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee follows the media release of a March 11 memo, in which 28-year-old Rep. Katherine Kazarian of East Providence states she has “endured years of sexual harassment,” by the representative.
Kazarian has represented District 63 since 2012.
In the memo reportedly obtained by WPRI-TV Target 12′s investigative reporter Ted Nesi, Kazarian expresses concern about Keable’s handling of legislation she had before his committee.
On Monday, Mattiello released a statement noting that he found out the legislators shared a “close personal and professional relationship” four years ago, which had ended.
“I asked both of them to separate and not interact with one another,” Mattiello said.
Mattiello further states that in response to Kazarian’s concerns this year, he suggested Keable not be present for hearings on some of her bills.
The speaker called the incident, “another attempt by the ultra-progressives to impact this election cycle.”
“I find it suspicious that one week before an election, reports are surfacing about events which date back many years involving these representatives,” Mattiello said.
While Keable did not respond to a request for comment on the issue, his attorney, Kathleen Hagerty, reportedly called Kazarian’s claims “unsubstantiated, years-old allegations.”
Keable, a Democrat who represents Burrillville and Glocester, lives in Pascoag, and is married. Next Tuesday, he faces a challenge for his seat by Burrillville Town Councilor David Place, a Republican.
Town Councilor Donald Fox released a statement on the reports on Tuesday, Oct. 30 calling for Keable to step down and withdraw his name from the election ballot, saying he “cannot condemn his alleged actions strongly enough.”
“There is no place for action like that at any level of government,” said Fox, a Republican also seeking reelection next Tuesday. “I have maintained all through this election cycle how important it is to know your candidates.”
“Burrillville and Glocester deserve to be represented by those who not only abide by the law and society’s norm, but work understand the harm caused by sexually intimidating and harassing fellow coworkers or colleagues,” Fox continued. “It makes me wonder how many others he has harassed since serving as State Rep. I hope that more are willing to come forth from the shadows and shed light on what is a horrible blight in our State House.”
Keable has served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee since 2014 and has overseen enactment of reform measures regarding the state’s voting system, lobbying laws and campaign finance. He has also been an outspoken opponent of the proposal by Invenergy Thermal, LLC to build a power plant in Burrillville.
Howard Merten, managing partner of the Providence-based firm where Keable works part-time as a lawyer, said that Keable was placed on administrative leave “until these allegations are clarified.”
“Our firm takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously,” Merten said in a statement.
Mattiello also released a statement Monday evening saying he had spoken with Keable and removed him as chairman “pending clarity of this issue.”