A Trump-obsessed state representative from Arizona is under fire after a damning report confirmed she harassed a former aide by fat-shaming him, making comments about his lesbian sister, and demanding that he work while sick with COVID-19.
The report, released on Monday by the Senate Ethics Committee, included text messages and an eyewitness account to corroborate the claims that Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) cultivated a hostile work environment. The investigation, which included interviews with 11 people, came after the former legislative aide, Michael Polloni, filed a complaint accusing Rogers of berating him, taking his belongings, and cursing him out in a heated tirade during his two-month tenure.
“You know I only want the best for you. You are going to be very very handsome when you’re trim,” Rogers wrote in a Dec. 17 text message to Polloni, according to the report. “I had to jump on my husband and he didn’t take it well but he soldiered through it and now he looks so much better.”
Polloni was ultimately fired on Jan. 14, 2021. Rogers has denied the allegations against her, insisting they are “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 made national headlines even before she assumed office on Jan. 11. A staunch Trump supporter, the Republican reportedly claimed to be a member of the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers. Several members of the group have been charged with conspiracy for allegedly planning for months to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.
According to the report, obtained by The Daily Beast, Polloni met Rogers in October 2020, when he volunteered for her first-term campaign. After her win, he was hired as Rogers’ legislative assistant. The pair “quickly developed a friendship and personal connection that extended to meals and get-togethers with the Senator's husband and Mr. Polloni’s father,” the report states.
During the two months he worked for Rogers, Polloni told investigators, she told him that he “needed to lose weight and that she wanted him to look good when sitting behind the desk representing her.” On several occasions, Polloni said, Rogers said his suits were “too tight and too short.”
In one exchange on Dec. 14, Polloni said that Rogers “looked at his gut” and told him he should lose weight while he was leaning over his desk reviewing some paperwork. She mentioned a dietician that helped her and her husband lose weight—and that he was a “good looking dude” who would “look much better thinner.”
In a text conversation three days later, which was provided to investigators, Polloni said he was going back to a diet that helped him lose 100 pounds. After Rogers told him he had a “good attitude,” Polloni insisted he “would love to do whatever it takes!”
Rogers told investigators she remembered having one conversation with Polloni about his weight, but insisted “it was in the interest of his professional development” and that the pair agreed to “work on it together.” She also noted that Polloni “installed light switch covers in the office made from 10-calorie Monster Energy drink cans as a motivator for the two of them.”
But the abuse went beyond a few passing comments after Polloni contracted COVID-19 on Jan. 3, according to the report. Rogers contacted Polloni on eight of 10 days he was sick, according to text messages and call logs, and often berated him for refusing to come into the office.
In one Jan. 4 text conversation, Rogers asked Polloni if he could work from home, to which he said he was instructed to “not work and just rest.”
“CAN you work from home? Are you up to it!” she pushed again, to which Polloni insisted he could not.
The report states that on Jan. 8, Polloni told Rogers he was cleared by a medical professional to go back to work, to which Polloni replied that her “bullshit detector is going off” and she wondered if he really had COVID-19. Rogers denied the allegation, stating she saw his positive test result.
“What have you been doing the past two weeks? Sitting on your butt doing nothing,” Rogers texted Polloni on Jan. 13 after he said he was coming back to work the next day. Rogers told Polloni he works for her “and if she texts him and asks him to get something done, he gets it done,” according to the report. Rogers told investigators she did remember speaking to Polloni “for being unresponsive” while battling COVID-19.
When he got back to the office, Polloni said he found his desk in disarray. He claimed Rogers threw his belongings in draws, “threw pictures in between his desk and cabinet, broke his glass Eagle Scout plaque, and threw his St. Michael’s statue into the bottom drawer of his cabinets.”
“In her interview, the Senator responded by saying that some of the items Mr. Polloni put out were not in keeping with the theme of the office that had been discussed,” the report states, adding that she asked Polloni to put them in a less obvious place.
But in a private meeting, the conversation over Polloni’s belongings escalated and Rogers told him he needed to think of “his office as a military barracks.” Polloni said he insisted that “St. Michael needed to stay on his desk for him and for her because St. Michael stands for everything she stood for in her election, which was pro-Trump, pro-God, pro-military, and pro-police”—but that Rogers did not care.
An aide to Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), who confirmed the argument to investigators, said she heard Rogers tell Polloni “tough shit, you work for me” before leaving the room and slamming the door behind her. Rogers insisted to investigations she didn’t slam the door or stand so close to Polloni that he could feel spit on his face.
Rogers, however, said she did tell Polloni “I will talk down to you, you work for me” before realizing that further discussion with him would be inappropriate because “he was clearly insubordinate and did not know his role.”
Polloni also alleged that Rogers made comments about his family. In one conversation about his sister, who is a lesbian, Rogers said “she could never do anything like that,” according to the report. On another occasion, Rogers allegedly questioned how Polloni’s conservative uncle and liberal aunt could be married.
According to Polloni, Rogers said the marriage “wasn’t right and that she couldn’t do anything like that.” Rogers, however, insisted that was “absolutely false” and she had no idea Polloni’s sister was gay until she read his complaint.
“In her interview, the Senator said that Mr. Polloni repeatedly talked about the relationship between his uncle and aunt, and her only response to him was that sometimes when campaigning door-to-door she would meet couples who were of opposite parties and everyone would chuckle about that,” the report adds.
The report does not draw conclusions as to whether Rogers broke any judicial rules and notes investigators could not confirm all of Polloni’s allegations.
On Tuesday, Arizona’s State Ethics Committee dismissed the ethics complaint against Rogers‚ meaning she will not face any repercussions for her behavior. “The AZ Senate just dismissed the ethics complaint against Senator Wendy Rogers by a 3-2 vote w/out even having a hearing for further investigation. This lack of accountability is exactly why victims don't come forward more often and why gov’t workplace harassment is perpetuated,” state Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) tweeted after the vote.