After Two Years And $200,000, Council Still Has No Sexual Harassment Policy Audit


A bunch of Metropolis Council members and candidates need to deliver renewed focus to the Council’s stalled efforts to deal with sexual harassment, on the identical time extra ladies proceed to come back ahead to accuse Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct, calling it a problem of transparency.

Greater than a yr and half since Metropolis Council Speaker Corey Johnson mentioned he was dedicated to taking steps to deal with complaints of a poisonous work setting for Council employees, a key audit that was speculated to determine what insurance policies had been working — and which of them weren’t — has but to be made public.

“It’s a good factor that we surveyed employees on our insurance policies relating to sexual misconduct and sexual harassment,” mentioned Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer who led a digital press convention on Tuesday,“ but when we do nothing with these findings, we have now truly despatched a horrific message to the employees, that we truly pretended to pay attention.”

In keeping with the Metropolis Comptroller’s workplace, the Council employed Redwood Enterprises to conduct the audit in Could 2019, estimating the audit would price $198,420, together with the price of journey for the Washington, D.C. based mostly agency. By April 2020, the town has paid $189,860, however no report has been made public and there’s no estimate for when that may occur.

In a press release, Johnson mentioned the Council has labored exhausting to replace its sexual harassment insurance policies and was dedicated to doing extra.

“The agency we contracted to assist replace and enhance our anti-sexual harassment insurance policies is within the technique of an intensive and unbiased evaluation, which has been delayed as a result of challenges posed by the COVID pandemic,” Johnson mentioned, including he was dissatisfied on the delay and had a “sense of urgency” that it must be accomplished as quickly as potential.

He declined to reply follow-up questions together with whether or not the audit was truly completed, when it might be launched, whether or not there could be public hearings on its findings and what message it despatched employees given the sexual harassment complaints popping out of Albany.

“It shouldn’t take one other abuser for us to be like, ‘oh what’s occurring with our personal investigation?’” Shahana Hanif informed Gothamist/WNYC. She labored as a director of organizing and group engagement for Council member Brad Lander from 2017 till the beginning of 2021. She’s at present a candidate for Council District 39, Lander’s district.
“This present Metropolis Council cohort must be prioritizing these calls for and these modifications,” she added, saying she’s dissatisfied in sitting Council members who haven’t completed extra to make sure this report was produced and made public.

Whereas the problem is ostensibly one in all transparency, making certain metropolis taxpayers understand how the Council is spending their cash to root out abuse, it was additionally a well-timed political maneuver as candidates for municipal workplace search to interrupt by means of the fixed drip of reports popping out concerning the governor.

Van Bramer is operating for Queens Borough President and Lander is operating for Comptroller in opposition to Johnson, who made a late entrance to the sector.

“We all know that harassment, poisonous office tradition, abuse of energy, opaque reporting programs and compromised investigations aren’t distinctive to Albany,” Lander mentioned. “We noticed that right here in New York Metropolis two years in the past within the case of the serial harassment dedicated by Andy King,” he added.

Lander was among the many members to vote in opposition to the Bronx member’s expulsion in 2019 after the Council’s Requirements and Ethics sexual harassment investigation. Lander mentioned he regretted that call. Lander joined with 47 different members to vote King out a yr later.

Council employees started to publicly elevate considerations about office requirements greater than two years in the past, resulting in a push for unionization among the many workers. In addition they secured commitments from the Speaker’s workplace to enhance the tradition and employment insurance policies, notably by way of harassment.

“I do know we aren’t good, I do know we are able to do higher,” Johnson mentioned on the time, acknowledging the considerations raised in an open letter addressed to him and the physique. He mentioned he was personally dedicated to creating employees really feel valued, citing modifications he had taken as Speaker, together with improved pay and expanded maternity and paternity go away.

However present staffers say not sufficient has been completed to enhance working situations inside the legislative physique.

“Harassment and abuse exists in any respect ranges of presidency, sadly,” mentioned Elizabeth Adams, a present Council staffer and a candidate for the thirty third Metropolis Council district, who added the tradition of bullying and abuse extends to native authorities. “We begin a tradition change by cleansing our personal home,” she added, stressing that’s their final aim.