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Nadeau Releases Redacted Report on Sexual Harassment Investigation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, D-Ward-1, today released the redacted version of the independent counsel’s review of the city’s earlier investigations into sexual harassment complaints against John Falcicchio, the Mayor’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development. The review was required by legislation Nadeau introduced and the Council passed unanimously in July 2023.

The report details the independent counsel’s review of the two previous investigations by the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel (MOLC), investigates other serious allegations, and provides policy recommendations on the District government’s process to address sexual harassment.

“I hope and I expect that this report will result in action that will make future incidents less likely and make the process of reporting, investigation, and response more transparent and more effective,” Nadeau said. “What these women went through is horrific. No one should have to suffer like they did, especially at the hands of someone in a position of authority and power. No employee should feel unsafe in their workplace. No employee should be subject to sexual harassment, and no one should fear retribution for coming forward.”

The report released today was authored by independent counsel from the law firm of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP who have extensive collective experience in sexual harassment claims, investigations, and government service. An unredacted version was delivered to the Council on the evening of Friday, May 10.

Review of MOLC Investigation

The report highlights that while the MOLC investigations were conducted in good faith, there were several legitimate key concerns about transparency and the appearance of independence.

Notably, the report revealed that despite the Mayor’s Order mandating that sexual harassment allegations against a deputy mayor be investigated by the Office of the City Administrator (OCA), neither the OCA, the Executive Office of the Mayor nor the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Planning and Development (DMPED) had a designated Sexual Harassment Officer (SHO) at that time. When MOLC contacted the Department of Human Resources (DCHR) for a SHO, they were informed that the agency did not have a dedicated SHO and instead contracted to use a former MPD officer who was not a District employee or a trained SHO. This ultimately resulted in MOLC leading the investigations.

The report indicates that although the MOLC SHO was well-qualified and conducted her investigation with integrity and professionalism, she did not have adequate resources and lacked supervision, depriving her of the opportunity to seek important advice from human resource officers, the Attorney General, and other SHOs. The MOLC SHO’s isolation also led to gaps in the investigation. For example, she did not review Falcicchio’s government provided devices. The report also makes clear that MOLC’s decision to organize the summary of findings from the first investigation as eight distinct claims misled the public by deemphasizing the clear, substantiated evidence of sexual harassment and hostile work environment.

Independent Counsel Investigation of Allegations Outside of MOLC Scope

The independent counsel’s investigation contains new information, including details about a third subordinate who was subjected to sexual harassment by Falcicchio and did not file a complaint. It notes that he had a modus operandi of pursuing sexual relationships with his subordinates and using the office as his “dating pool.” The report outlines that Falcicchio fostered a hostile work environment, including displaying favoritism to female employees that he may have been interested in sexually or romantically. While there wasn’t direct evidence that Falcicchio leveraged his positions as deputy mayor and chief of staff for sexual or attraction-driven hires, the independent counsel determined that his dual role allowed him to be on both sides of hiring decisions, raising questions about the fairness and integrity of the District’s hiring practices.

Recommendations

The report concludes with important recommendations for improved ways to address sexual harassment to ensure that when it occurs, employees can be confident in the reporting and investigative process.

The independent counsel recommends the Mayor’s sexual harassment policy, updated in October 2023, amend the definition of harassment to match the definition in the D.C. Human Rights Act, specify how complaints made against high-ranking officials will be independently handled, expand avenues for employees to file complaints both formally and informally, consider an anonymous hotline, require DCHR and the D.C. Office of Human Rights to verify agencies are conducting annual sexual harassment trainings, update training materials, and establish qualification standards for SHOs (currently a voluntary position). Another recommendation notes that the Mayor’s policy should ban all sexual and romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates.

The report’s findings will further inform revisions to separate legislation Nadeau introduced last year – still working its way through the Council – that would require independent third-party investigations whenever allegations of sexual harassment are made against high-level executive branch employees. Nadeau introduced her legislation, the Sexual Harassment Investigation Integrity Act of 2023, with the goal of minimizing the risk of future intended or unintended bias. The bill was co-introduced by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Henderson, Parker, Robert White, Gray, Pinto, Lewis George, Allen, and Bonds.

Recommendations to be considered include creating a centralized sexual harassment oversight panel tasked with reviewing complaints and serving as a resource to SHOs, issuing guidelines on the public release of investigative findings of sexual harassment complaints, requiring enhanced mandatory training for supervisors and SHOs, and requiring independent legal counsel be kept on retainer.

“Transparency and trust are essential to giving employees confidence that they will be safe in their work environments and that when incidents arise, they can report them safely, knowing the allegations will be taken seriously, investigated properly, and acted upon,” Nadeau said. “This report gives the executive and the Council a to-do list to ensure that any future incidents are handled differently and that systems are in place that will better discourage sexual harassment and better respond if it happens.”

Nadeau released the redacted report after the Office of General Counsel for the Council of the District of Columbia redacted identifying information to protect the privacy of complainants and witnesses.

“I have said from the start that this is about transparency, and that the District government should make as much of the report as possible public, while protecting the victims,” Nadeau said. “I understand and share the public’s anger about how long this took and that the timing is not ideal. In the end, not much had to be redacted, but those redactions had to be made by an attorney qualified to make them. My priority once we received this report was to protect the identities of the complainants, and violating that trust was a non-starter for me.”

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Download report


Additional Background Information

Who issued the report?

The report was authored by independent counsel retained by the Office of the Inspector General: five attorneys from the law firm of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP who have extensive collective experience in sexual harassment claims, investigations, and government service. Deborah Curtis led the team and is joined by Josh Alloy, Elizabeth Carney, Eliza Buergenthal, and Samuel Witten.

Who had access to the report prior to its public release?

The report was hand-delivered the evening of May 10 by the Office of the Inspector General to the Mayor’s Office and the offices of Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers McDuffie, Bonds, and Nadeau. Councilmember Nadeau made hard copies for additional Councilmembers who requested it.

Why was this investigation conducted?

In March 2023, counsel for Complaint #1 alerted Mayor Muriel Bowser and Eugene Adams, director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel (MOLC), of allegations of sexual harassment against John Falcicchio, then chief of staff and deputy mayor for DMPED. Falcicchio resigned from his positions shortly thereafter. Subsequently, a second complainant came forward.

MOLC produced two reports, summaries of which were made public by the Executive Office of the Mayor and MOLC.

Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau introduced the Sexual Harassment Investigation Review Emergency Act of 2023 on July 10, 2023. The legislation required the Office of the Inspector General to hire independent counsel to conduct an independent review of the investigations into the allegations against Falcicchio and provide a report of the findings no later than 120 days after the award of a contract.

The D.C. Council passed the legislation unanimously on July 11, 2023. The Mayor signed the legislation on July 31, 2023.

On January 19, 2024, Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas informed the Council that Independent Counsel from Arnold and Porter Kay Scholer LLP had been retained.

Who conducted the first investigation?

The Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel Sexual Harassment Officer first investigated the allegations against Falcicchio, producing two reports, in June and July 2023, detailing findings and conclusions related to two separate complainants.

Timeline

March 8, 2023: Counsel to Complainant #1 sends letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and Eugene Adams, director of MOLC. Mayor approves appointment of an attorney from within MOLC to investigate under the Sexual Harassment Officer (SHO) procedures in Mayor’s Order 2017-313

March 9: Falcicchio is informed of the allegations and the investigation

March 10: MOLC Sexual Harassment Officer is assigned to investigate the initial complaint

March 17: Falcicchio tenders his resignation

March 29: Complainant #1’s attorney sends letter to Adams outlining the allegations of a second client, Complainant #2, against Falcicchio

March 30: MOLC SHO is assigned to investigate the second complaint

June 17: MOLC publicly releases a summary of findings and conclusions related Complainant #1, describing two “substantiated” allegations of sexual harassment and six “unsubstantiated” allegations

July 11: Council passes 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

July 31: MOLC publicly releases a summary of findings and conclusions related to Complainant #2, describing two “substantiated” allegations of sexual harassment and two “unsubstantiated” allegations

October 31: Mayor’s Order 2023-131, Updated District Government Sexual Harassment Policy, Guidance, and Procedures, is issued, superseding Mayor’s Order 2017-313

January 15, 2024: Arnold & Porter commences a review and investigation

May 9: MOLC announces in a statement that the District government reached a settlement with Complainants #1 and #2

May 10: Arnold & Porter delivers final Report to Inspector General. OIG hand delivers copies of the report to the Mayor’s Office and to the offices of Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Bonds, McDuffie, and Nadeau after 4 pm.

Download report

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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