Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sex(ual harassment) and the City (council)

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Charlotte isn't the first city to deal with sexual harassment allegations against an elected official.

From Los Angeles to New York, elected officials have been accused of acting inappropriately, so it seems that it was only a matter of time before Charlotte found itself in the middle of such a storm. For the Queen City, it all started with an e-mail from Mayor Anthony Foxx reminding council members not to sexually harass the staff.

Then the speculation began. Who did what? What did it all mean? Was there a complaint? But one thing is certain. The City of Charlotte doesn’t have a clear policy dealing with sexual harassment and elected officials.

According to a report from NewsChannel 36:

The city of Charlotte does have a formal policy against harassment for employees of City Manager Curt Walton, but elected officials are not considered city staff.

Other cities, smaller and larger than Charlotte have those policies. Take Bothell, Washington for example.

In this city of 30,000, it’s sexual harassment policy clearly lists council members.

Sexual harassment by an on-duty employee toward another employee, by an on-duty employee toward a non-employee (while involved in the transaction of City business) such as City customers, Councilmembers, board members, volunteers or vendors while involved in a legitimate business transaction is covered by and subject to enforcement under this policy. An on-duty employee's conduct of a sexual nature that is observed by, and offensive to, another employee, may also constitute sexual harassment. Sexual harassment toward an on-duty employee by a nonemployee such as City customers, Councilmembers, board members, volunteers or vendors should be reported to the supervisor or Department Head. The City will take appropriate action to protect its employees from sexual harassment by non-employees.

In Lawton, Oklahoma, if a city council member is accused of sexual harassment, the accuser makes a complaint to the mayor or mayor pro tem if the complaint is against the mayor.

Is Charlotte on it’s way to drafting a clear sexual harassment policy that includes elected officials? City Attorney Mac McCarley said while the city doesn't have a sexual harassment policy that mentions elected officials, Title 7 ,employment law, would be used for any issues involving the city.

But the topic of sexual harassment was being discussed by the city council at a budget meeting.

According to The Charlotte Observer:

Foxx wants to speed up the hiring of an outside investigator to probe allegations that a council member sexually harassed a city employee.

City Council had planned to discuss the issue April 12, but Foxx said Tuesday he will place it on the council's agenda in advance of today's budget workshop.

"Our agenda is full without an issue like this on the table," Foxx said. "We want to get it over as quickly as possible."

On March 14, Foxx sent an e-mail to all 11 council members telling them that "sexual harassment" of staff wouldn't be tolerated. The e-mail sparked intense speculation as to which council member it was directed at.

Three city officials, speaking on condition that they not be named, said the e-mail was in response to council member Warren Turner's behavior toward a female staff member.

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