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Nadeau Files Bill Requiring Independent Review of Falcicchio Investigations

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau introduced emergency legislation Thursday that would re-examine sexual harassment complaints against John Falcicchio, the mayor’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development. If passed by a supermajority of the Council next Tuesday, it would go into effect immediately. 

The measure is the second of two aimed at addressing how sexual harassment allegations against top-level executive branch employees are handled and restoring trust in that process. Nadeau submitted a bill last week that would require independent investigations for future sexual harassment complaints against mayoral appointees. 

The emergency legislation submitted Thursday is a response to widespread concerns about the lack of an independent investigation of the complaints against Falcicchio. Instead, the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel, which reports to the mayor, investigated and issued a report on one worker’s complaints of sexual harassment. The office is investigating complaints by a second District employee and is expected to issue another report. 

“When complaints are made against those at the highest level of authority, we must pay even greater attention to the uneven power dynamic and the potential for power, influence and conflict to play a role,” she said. “Even if none of those are in play, we can’t have even the perception that they might be – it ruins trust in the process.” 

Nadeau’s legislation would require the Inspector General to hire independent counsel to review the MOLC’s reports to determine if the methodology and conclusions it drew were justified. The independent counsel would also review new formal or informal complaints that may arise from former or present employees or as part of their investigation.  

“I don’t have any expectations for what a review of those will find,” Nadeau said. “That is the point – my analysis could be perceived as political, just as the MOLC’s can be. This is why we need independent investigations and, in this case, a review of the investigations that have taken place so far.” 

The legislation also empowers the Office of the Inspector General to investigate other matters that were outside the scope of the prior investigations, including hiring and promotion practices, and workplace culture. The Mayor has requested that the Inspector General look into these matters and this legislation supports that request. 

Nadeau submitted legislation last week that is forward-looking and would require investigation by independent counsel whenever a complaint is filed against a mayoral appointee. 

Nadeau is not a stranger to developing policies and procedures around sexual harassment. She led the extensive process of developing a policy adopted by the Council in 2021, which requires independent investigations of formal complaints and even for informal complaints if the allegations are made against councilmembers. 

“Victims and all employees in District government and the public need to be able to trust the process. And that cannot happen if government agencies are investigating themselves or their bosses,” Nadeau said. “Without trust, employees will hesitate to come forward out of fear for their jobs and fear that their complaints will not be heard or handled appropriately. That deprives them of justice and denies their fellow employees protection from potential offenders.” 

Nadeau said the Inspector General has the authority to refer matters for criminal charges and possesses the power to ensure full compliance with investigations. While the office is within the executive branch, it generally operates independently of the Mayor and the Council. Requiring the Inspector General to hire independent counsel further ensures independence. 

Read the Declaration of Emergency.

Read the full text of the emergency legislation below.

Update: Read the final version of the bill as passed July 10, 2023.

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Related

Last week, the Committee on Public Works & Operations, which I chair, convened a hearing to identify missteps in the initial investigation of allegations of sexual harassment against Mayor Bowser’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development and ensure that the DC government improves going forward.

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