Officials in Frederick will be subject to complaints about harassment or inappropriate behavior under a new policy scheduled to go into effect Monday.
The new policy outlines the process for looking into complaints against the mayor or members of the Board of Aldermen in Frederick, who previously had not been included in methods for reporting inappropriate behavior.
Someone who wants to file a complaint would take their concerns to the director of human resources or the city attorney. Complaints could be made on someone’s own behalf or on behalf of a colleague, according to a memorandum on the policy prepared by city staff.
The HR director or city attorney will listen to the allegations and discuss them with the person making the complaint. If they feel a full investigation is needed, they can appoint an investigator to look into the complaint — either an employee of the city or an attorney or someone else retained by the city.
The investigator will set up a timeline for the investigation, notify and interview the elected official, interview all relevant witnesses, and prepare a written report summarizing the investigation, the testimony and all relevant evidence.
The HR director will refer the report to the city’s Ethics Commission, which would either dismiss the complaint or hold a hearing. The hearing could result in a referral for mandatory counseling or an official reprimand.
The aldermen unanimously approved the new policy and an ordinance to change sections of the city’s code regarding ethics at a meeting Thursday night.
The lack of a method to address complaints against public officials drew attention in December when Alderman Ben MacShane posted a comment on Facebook about allegations he’d heard from several women about inappropriate behavior by his colleague Alderman Roger Wilson.
In May, a report by an attorney hired by the city found “sufficient evidence to conclude that Alderman Wilson relied on his position as an Alderman to gain the acquaintance and trust of women in the community” and that Wilson “then used a pretense of helping these women as an opportunity to request that they engage in sexual relationships with him.”
Before Thursday night’s vote, MacShane said he hopes other jurisdictions follow the city’s lead in setting new policies.
To women in the community who have been harassed by a public official, MacShane said, “That was wrong. And I apologize to you for that happening. This city failed you. This community failed you.”