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On the Need for an Independent Investigation

At the Council of D.C.’s July 11 Meeting, Councilmember Nadeau introduced the Sexual Harassment Investigation Review Emergency Act of 2023, which requires an independent review of the investigations into sexual harassment complaints against John Falcicchio, the mayor’s former chief of staff and a deputy mayor. The legislation passed unanimously; nine votes were necessary for passage.

Remarks as drafted

Earlier this month I introduced permanent legislation along with nine colleagues aimed at addressing how sexual harassment allegations against top-level executive branch employees are handled, with the goal of updating procedures to be more in line with Council’s new policies.

This emergency measure today will, more immediately, require the Inspector General to review investigations the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel conducted regarding [John Falcicchio] the Mayor’s former Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Credible accusations of harassment against someone many agreed was one of the most powerful people in DC government makes it abundantly clear that investigations need to be conducted in an independent manner.

We have a responsibility to support victims, protect workers, and restore public trust.

There are widespread concerns about how the investigation of the complaints against the Mayor’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development were handled.

I want to acknowledge the bravery of the women that have come forward and how difficult it must have been to share their experiences. We must ensure that their case was handled properly.

We have a responsibility to them and all 36,000 District government workers.

This legislation would require the Inspector General to hire independent counsel with expertise in such cases to review the report issued by the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine if the methodology and conclusions it drew were justified, within a 90-day timeframe.

The independent counsel would also review new formal or informal complaints that may arise from former or current employees or as part of their investigation.

The legislation also empowers the OIG to investigate other matters that were outside the scope of the MOLC’s investigation, including hiring and promotion practices and workplace culture

The Mayor has already asked that the IG look into some of these issues, and this legislation in fact supports that request, acknowledging that the Mayor may only make requests of the IG, but Council action can actually make that request a reality.

Victims, employees, and the public need to be able to trust the process, and that cannot happen if government agencies are investigating themselves and their bosses.

Without that trust, employees might hesitate to come forward – whether out of fear for their jobs or fear that their allegations will not be taken seriously or handled appropriately. That deprives them of justice.

Thank you, and with that I move the Declaration and ask for my colleagues’ support.

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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