Metro Council group crafting anti-harassment policy to 'foster respect'
The Anti-Harassment Policy Work Group met Tuesday to discuss two ordinances designed to create a reporting procedure for harassment allegations.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Anti-Harassment Policy Work Group met Tuesday to discuss two ordinances designed to create a reporting procedure for harassment allegations within Louisville Metro Council.
“As of right now, as we know, there is no policy and procedure that’s in place,” said Councilwoman Jessica Green, (D) District 1.
Two of the members in the work group, Green and Angela Leet, are tied to the allegations against fellow council member Dan Johnson. Last year, the legislative assistant for Leet said Johnson exposed his backside to her in the parking lot. In early June, Green said Johnson grabbed her rear end during a public event.
“There should not be any council member that can walk these halls terrorizing anybody,” Green said. “That’s unacceptable, and we need to make sure our policy covers that.”
The sexual harassment accusations against Johnson brought to light holes in the current policies at City Hall. There are not clear definitions of harassment, how to report it or possible disciplinary action. And Metro Council is unique in that it involves elected officials.
Leet has been working on an anti-harassment policy for months. The work group went over that ordinance with experts from the County Attorney’s office Tuesday. The group also worked on a second ordinance establishing a reporting process.
The wording of the ordinances was important to members so that everyone working in City Hall would be covered. That includes volunteers, all employees, legislative assistants and elected council members.
The plan right now is to create a reporting process with the anonymous tip line. Anyone would call in to make a report of harassment. That would then be investigated by a third party. If it was deemed legitimate, the investigator would need to get a sworn statement.
"This takes some of the vexatiousness (sic) out of it,” Leet said. “To take the political out of it. To make it neutral and ensure protection."
The report would then go to the Committee of Committees to determine how to proceed. This would take the burden away from the Metro Council president’s office, instead relying on the third-party investigator and the Auditor’s Office.
Many of the questions that came up during the work group Tuesday included how to prevent false reports, how to protect anonymity, how to legitimize a report, how much time should be allowed for an investigation, how to allow for accusers and those accused to respond, how to protect the accusers in the meantime, how to determine proper disciplinary action, how to enforce disciplinary action and how to differentiate between disciplinary action for members versus staff.
"Of course we understand as council members we are a separate category,” Green said. “We are elected. But we're not above the fray. And again, as I said earlier, I believe we should be held to an even higher standard than our employees.”
The work group will meet again at 11 a.m. on July 10 to iron out more details. Then the ordinances will go to the Committee of Accountability and Ethics on July 18. The proposed ordinances would need to go through public comment and pass full Metro Council.
"I do hope moving forward we are able to craft a policy that protects the privacy of victims of sexual assault and that provides everyone due process who is accused,” Green said. “But really to just foster respect."
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