Frederick’s aldermen will decide whether the city should move forward with an investigation into allegations against colleague Roger Wilson after a letter to Mayor Michael O’Connor from Wilson’s attorney outlined several possible alternatives for looking into the matter.
In the letter Thursday, Wilson’s attorney, Timothy F. Maloney, said anyone with a complaint could appeal to several independent agencies to address the matter.
Like many Maryland municipalities, the city has no laws to deal with claims of sexual harassment by city officials or employees, the letter said. But the claims are handled under state and federal law, including the Maryland Civil Rights Commission and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In a statement Thursday evening, O’Connor said he would consult with the aldermen to see if there is still interest in an investigation.
“I will abide by the decision of the Aldermen because Alderman Wilson has announced his candidacy for mayor, and it is important that everyone understands that any decision made regarding this matter moving forward is not politically motivated,” the statement reads.
Wilson has been accused by several women of inappropriate interactions, The News-Post has independently confirmed. Alderman Ben MacShane made the allegations in a late-December Facebook post.
The statement said O’Connor didn’t know Thursday where the aldermen stood on an investigation.
The board had a meeting Thursday evening but did not discuss the situation.
Maloney’s letter also criticized O’Connor for weighing in on the accusations within the Facebook statement.
O’Connor was “obviously complicit” in MacShane’s “slanderous” post, in an effort to attack an opponent in the mayor’s race, Maloney’s letter said.
“This was made clear when you immediately used city resources to proclaim the unspecified complaints to be ‘very serious,’ and pronounced judgements concerning these vague allegations in a public forum,” the letter to the mayor said. “Additionally, on the City website, you invited citizens to come forward with complaints concerning your opponent.”
Hours after MacShane’s Dec. 26 post, O’Connor released a statement on the city’s website noting the seriousness of the allegations and saying they “do not keep the values and standards of The City of Frederick.”
In a Dec. 31 statement, O’Connor said his response was only meant to assure the public that he was aware of the claims and they would be addressed.
He also announced that the city would hire an outside firm to do an independent investigation.
Maloney’s letter further criticizes the mayor for using public resources and authority to investigate a political opponent.
“Such behavior is commonplace in undemocratic nations, but it has never occurred in Maryland, and never occurred in our community. It has no place in Frederick City government,” the letter said.
Wilson said Thursday evening that he’s not aware of any formal complaints or charges against him. He emphasized the letter’s message is that there are ways for someone with a grievance to pursue it.
Aldermen, including Wilson and MacShane, had initially supported an outside investigation, but Wilson later objected to a “taxpayer-funded witch hunt” and said an investigation should include looking into MacShane and O’Connor’s actions.
Wilson introduced legislation Thursday that would update several sections of the county’s ethics code, including proposals that would allow people to submit a complaint of sexual harassment against officials or various others to the city’s ethics commission for review and investigation.
The changes would also prohibit officials or employees from using the prestige of their office or position for private gain, or using an official or personal social media platform to make public accusations against any city employee, “agent, committee or board member, officer, or elected official.”
The ethics commission could dismiss a complaint if it decides that an accusation doesn’t have enough evidence to support it.
If the report decides that a complaint was made in bad faith and “intended to cause harm to the subject of the violation,” the person who makes the complaint can be fined up to $1,000.
The online version of this article has been updated to indicate that The News-Post has independently confirmed that multiple women have made allegations against Roger Wilson.