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Nadeau secures release of key documents in sexual harassment investigation

Councilmember Brianne Nadeau delivers her opening remarks at a roundtable on sexual harassment investigation.

“If I have any opportunity to use the power I have in government to make sure he never gets to do this again, I will do that.” 

Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) secured an agreement from the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel to provide key documents to assist the District’s attorney general in investigating potential criminal behavior by John Falcicchio, the Mayor’s former chief of staff and former deputy mayor for planning and economic development, a day following news reports that the attorney general accused MOLC of impeding his investigation.  

Deputy Director of MOLC Vanessa Natale, testifying at a hearing that Nadeau and the Committee of Public Works and Operations convened, said that she would provide the relevant documents from the investigation of the second District employee to bring allegations against Falcicchio to the attorney general’s office today. Nadeau separately confirmed that the attorney general’s office would accept the documents.  

“The conclusion that we got to today is that the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel will be releasing a significant number of documents to the Office of the Attorney General to help them pursue any criminal investigation that they have jurisdiction over,” Nadeau said. “The commitment was made in the hearing that the documents will be transmitted today to the Attorney General.” 

The Committee also learned from Natale that MOLC is in possession of Falcicchio’s government electronic devices, including his phone and computer, which were not reviewed during the course of the initial investigation.  

“It is my sincere hope that a law enforcement agency takes possession of those devices so that they can determine whether criminal activity has occurred that we are not already aware of,” Nadeau said. “What continues to trouble me is that someone who has been so powerful in the District government for decades, and who now we hear in media reports is trying to worm his way back into power in the District of Columbia, is still walking the streets without any legal penalty. For me, when he faces criminal prosecution, that will be closure for everyone involved. As was revealed by the independent investigation, this was absolutely a pattern of behavior, and men like this do not stop just because they lose a job. Men like this think they are invincible. And if I have any opportunity to use the power I have in government to make sure he never gets to do this again, I will do that.”   

MOLC initially declined the committee’s request to testify but reversed course and notified the committee on Tuesday that they would appear.   

Nadeau and the Committee held the hearing, scheduled prior to yesterday’s revelations, to hold executive branch agencies accountable, after the public release of the independent counsel report last month revealed that the MOLC misled the public, failed to adequately collect and preserve all relevant evidence, failed to provide the investigation with the proper staff and financial resources, and failed to adequately consider the need to consult with or refer the matter to law enforcement. 

“Each step of the way, 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,” Nadeau said. “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 must be on the future: ensuring that District government employees have confidence in the process.” 

Nadeau was joined at times at the hearing by fellow committee member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5). 

Nadeau is committed to creating 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.    

Today’s hearing, in addition to securing the release of evidence for ongoing criminal investigations, will also inform upcoming legislation introduced by Nadeau and a separate bill introduced by Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At-Large).  

“We have a report that sheds light on the mistakes that were made and provides recommendations for the future. It cannot sit on a shelf. It must guide us as we set a higher standard moving forward,” Nadeau said.   

Nadeau’s legislation 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. 

The Office of the Inspector General, which commissioned the report, also testified and answered questions. Daniel Lucas, the inspector general, said he has made criminal referrals regarding Falcicchio’s behavior, though he would not say to what agency or agencies referrals were made. He also acknowledged that he would provide the attorney general with documents relevant to his criminal investigation.   

Attorneys from Arnold & Porter, the firm that conducted the independent review of the initial MOLC investigation, conducted additional complainant and witness interviews, and made recommendations for changes to government policies and procedures also testified.  

Deborah Curtis, lead attorney for independent counsel, revealed for the first time that her firm sent a separate letter to the OIG detailing “graphic” and “revelatory” facts of possible criminal behavior that included sexual assault, recommending a referral to law enforcement. 

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 Falcicchio, leading to the initial investigation by MOLC. After the public release of the findings of the first investigation in July, Nadeau 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 OIG contracted with Arnold & Porter to produce the independent review the legislation required. Last month, the final report was delivered and subsequently a redacted version was made public by Council.   

In her opening remarks, Nadeau explained why the hearing was necessary. 

“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. Our goal here today is to dive into the independent counsel’s serious critiques of the initial investigation and identify where things went wrong and ensure that the DC government improves going forward.” 

Nadeau also recognized the bravery of the women who came forward with the allegations. 

“We cannot overlook the courage it took for these women to tell their stories. From the beginning, I have operated on the belief that our primary obligation is to the victims in this case. What they went through is horrific. I will do everything in my power to make sure not one more employee feels unsafe in the workplace of the District government.”    

Read Councilmember Nadeau’s opening remarks from the hearing.                           

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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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