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Nadeau Opening Statement at Sexual Harassment Hearing 

“In March 2023, the Mayor and the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel were made aware of allegations of sexual harassment against Mayor Bowser’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development. Two days later, the sexual harassment officer in the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel began an investigation into the allegations from two complainants who came forward. 

“After the Mayor’s legal counsel publicly released the findings of the first investigation in July, I introduced, and the Council unanimously passed, legislation to ensure public trust and to reassure District employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace by requiring an independent review of the investigation.  

“The Inspector General contracted with Arnold & Porter to produce the independent review my legislation required. Last month, the final report was delivered and subsequently a redacted version was made public by Council.  

“Which brings us to today. I’ve been asked why we need this roundtable. Haven’t we done enough oversight? Well, my answer is: legislative oversight is a continuous task, and this roundtable is a part of Council’s role to conduct oversight of Executive agencies. We also have a report from the independent investigator which sheds light on the mistakes that were made, delivered new information, and provides recommendations for the future.  

“I do want to emphasize the report’s details regarding mistakes made by MOLC. These include misleading the public, failing to acquire and collect all relevant evidence (including electronic devices), not providing the investigation with the proper staff and financial resources, and neglecting to consider the need to consult with or refer the matter to law enforcement.  

“Our goal here today is to dive into those serious critiques and identify where things went wrong and ensure that the DC government improves going forward.  It’s crucial to create an environment where District government employees feel confident coming forward with complaints of sexual harassment, knowing that they will be taken seriously, handled with care, and that action will be taken.   

“This hearing and the testimonies we hear today will also inform upcoming legislation – one introduced by me and another by Councilmember Bonds – allowing us to incorporate important lessons from this case. I am committed to making sure that this report does not sit on a shelf and that we are setting a higher standard for the future. 

… 

“I’d like to briefly thank the attorneys here from Arnold & Porter, the firm that conducted the independent investigation and drafted the report. And thank you to the Office of the Inspector General and Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel for participating.  

“I’m frustrated that the D.C. Department of Human Resources declined our request to participate. The Committee is seeking answers from the prehearing questions sent to the agency regarding shocking information revealed in the report. For instance, I want to know how long DCHR has been without a dedicated SHO? Why did the agency instead contract with a former MPD employee, who isn’t trained in sexual harassment complaints, to do this work? Why was there an apparent lack of oversight by the agency in the SHO process during the initial investigations? And when did DCHR last update their Issuance guidelines before these complaints were filed? 

… 

“Today’s hearing became even more consequential when we learned yesterday that the Office of the Inspector General and the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel have been rebuffing efforts by the DC Attorney General to hand over information as part of a criminal investigation into Falchiccio’s conduct.  

“To say this news is distressing is an extreme understatement. Why – after everything that has transpired – would MOLC refuse to hand over the investigative file to the Attorney General? How are we supposed to protect past and future victims and give them faith in this process? It’s shameful.  

“From the first news of the complaints, I have operated on the belief that our primary obligation is to the victims in this case, as well as to all District government employees, who should have unfailing trust in the process, but currently do not, and with good reason. 

“Each step of the way, what we have seen the Executive branch take a fundamentally flawed approach – one that seems intent on protecting the predator, not the victims. A predator who is in the process of trying to rehabilitate himself in the same sphere of influence.  

“The Mayor didn’t even follow her own order. According to the Mayor’s 2017 Order, the Office of the City Administrator SHO was supposed to conduct the investigation. But OCA didn’t have a dedicated SHO. OCA said they use the SHO at DCHR. But DCHR didn’t have a SHO, and instead had a contractor who isn’t even a government employee. It was then decided that MOLC should conduct the investigation even though there were concerns about the appearance of bias. To make matters worse, the Executive then decided to release the report literally in the middle of the night.   

“Now, it turns out, MOLC is withholding evidence from an ongoing criminal investigation. Who does MOLC work for? How can victims trust this process? How can District employees believe their employer will keep them safe?  

“In a news report yesterday, Vanessa Natale, deputy director at MOLC, reportedly expressed concern that sharing documents with the OAG would ‘chill the participation of witnesses and complainants in the sexual harassment process’ moving forward.  

“Seriously?  

“The ‘chill’ among Executive Office of the Mayor employees already existed, as documented clearly and extensively in the report. The real chill comes from the leaks, reports released in the middle of the night, and an expectation that nobody will act on complaints when they are brought forward. I should think that sharing information with a law enforcement agency such as the OAG would be welcome and send a positive signal to employees, as it would indicate that finally somebody is doing something.  

“The government should care about holding accountable the guy who did this to our employees. 

“I am not alone in questioning this. In fact, the report commissioned by OIG speaks to this directly, and I quote:  

“While confidentiality of a complainant can be imperative to an investigation, and to a complainant’s well-being, the investigator should be wary of maintaining such confidentiality to the detriment of an accurate, well-resourced, and, when necessary, cross-agency investigation.’ 

“As frustrated – and angry, to be honest – as I am about some of what transpired after the news of the complaints was made public, our focus today must be on the future: ensuring that District government employees have confidence in the process.” 

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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.
It’s never just about the numbers – it’s about the people impacted by the programs and people funded in the budget. I remain committed to do the hard work to take care of our neighbors, to keep our city safe, to enhance our quality of life.

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