There’s a lot to unpack when discussing the allegations Ben MacShane made against fellow alderman Roger Wilson this past weekend.

MacShane, in a widely circulated Facebook post on Saturday, leveled serious allegations, saying he’s heard “credible reports of widespread misconduct” by Wilson from several unnamed women. MacShane said those claims “describe sexual harassment, unwelcome advances, coercion, and quid pro quo offers.”

Wilson, in turn, has called these claims “false” and “slanderous.”

What’s followed since has been a discussion, playing out mostly on social media, of not only Wilson’s innocence or guilt but also MacShane’s decision to make the accusations public on Facebook.

But before we go any further, it is critical we say this: Charges of sexual harassment and impropriety must always be taken seriously, and each case needs to be investigated. Period.

Victims of sexual harassment need to be given a safe and confidential way of making their concerns known to whatever authority is appropriate. And it is this point where we have been most surprised by what’s transpired these past few days. Apparently, there is no clear path to file a complaint against a sitting elected official in Frederick.

This is the rationale MacShane used to justify airing the allegations on Facebook. “With no official process available for these women, I agreed to bring this into the light,” he told us Monday.

While we don’t believe Facebook was the right way to go about this, we agree with MacShane that there needs to be a better way to address these kinds of allegations when leveled at elected officials.

At present, there seems to be a fire drill of sorts in determining what to do, with a majority of aldermen, including Wilson, calling for an independent investigation into the matter, although it’s not entirely clear how that investigation might be organized or by whom. Some have suggested the Maryland Attorney General’s Office provide guidance, though that thought, at least at this point, is nothing more than an idea.

Part of the problem is that the city of Frederick does not consider elected officials government employees, so neither the city’s human resources department nor the mayor have any authority to investigate or discipline an elected official, Alderwoman Kelly Russell told reporter Ryan Marshall earlier this week.

From what we can tell, Frederick isn’t unique in this distinction. The rationale is that a decision to remove someone from office is typically left to the voters. Even the city’s ethics rules aren’t applicable because they mostly apply to conflicts of interest and financial disclosures.

Late on Saturday, Mayor Michael O’Connor issued a news release and followed that with an email, which said, “With the allegations public, my statement commits to involving city departments to provide appropriate support.”

That’s good to hear. Now that O’Connor has committed the city to provide support, he can start, if he hasn’t already, by helping to chart a process for investigating the allegations, perhaps reaching out to the attorney general’s office to formally request help. At the same time, he can, as suggested by Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, look at how other places have dealt with similar issues.

O’Connor can also join with the aldermen to craft legislation that would put a process in place should this situation arise again. MacShane told us Monday that he is working on an idea now.

But that’s only moving forward. For the issue at hand, an independent investigation seems to be the best option. For the sake of all, we need to get at the truth and not the continual din of comments on social media.

(30) comments

threecents

These posts are a microcosm of the American scandal system. The issue of guilt is secondary to how the charges are framed and how the actors respond. Oh, the drama. The suggestions of racism are especially awesome. As the kids say, "I am like, what?"

Burgessdr

There is some halfwittedness here by McShane, O'Connor, and the FNP.

The City Code clearly says "The Board of Aldermen shall be the judge of the qualifications of its members as may be provided by ordinance. The individual being judged shall not be allowed to vote. A unanimous vote of the remaining members is required for removal."

It says nothing about judging on Facebook. Mcshane did not bring these allegations to the attention of the Mayor and BOA and thus should be censured. The Mayor did not bother to address the inappropriate behavior by McShane but did address the ALLEGATIONS of inappropriate behavior by Wilson. That's wrong.

Maybe there should be an independent investigation of the Mayor and the entire BOA for their clusterdness. Who knows maybe they will all have to resign. McShane says there has been a coverup. Maybe that is why he didnt talk to the Mayor and BOA.

I dont think this a dastardly plot by Blaine to get him elected Mayor but it will surely help.

KellyAlzan

Agreed

islandcuban

The optics of this whole situation are difficult to feel comfortable with. Without due process, it seems that an African American was "lynched" on social media by two of his political opponents, who happen to be white....

PurplePickles aka L&M

@islandcuban

I think everyone and I mean EVERYONE, sees it that way also. You were the only one brave enough to tell the truth OUT LOUD and use words that make white people very uncomfortable to use, myself included, "lynched" is a hard word to say out loud when you are white.

threecents

I am trying to understand.

1) Do you guys really think skin color was a motivation for the charges? Yes or No.

2) Is it possible there is a factually basis for the charges that is not based on skin color? Yes or No.

3) Is everything based on skin color?

KellyAlzan

MacSHAME just handed Ba’Lane the mayor seat.

DickD

Not if the dog catcher runs because the dog catcher will win.

petersamuel

There IS an established process: the Mayor and Board go into closed session. They do it several times a year when they have a financial or personnel issue to discuss confidentially. Alderman MacShane should have asked for a Closed Session and there confronted Alderman Wilson with his allegations. After Wilson had been given the opportunity to respond the Mayor and Board members, with the advice of the City Attorney, could have decided whether an investigation was needed. You don't start with a Facebook post.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Peter!

KellyAlzan

FNP EDITORIAL STAFF:::::::

It appears peter has a better command of the process than the aldermen, the mayor, and you do.

I truly hope, that you as professional media, where you must respect innocent until proved guilty, have another editorial coming on slamming people public ally and destroying one’s public image

Burgessdr

I would vote for Peter for Mayor. Heck maybe even volunteer to be his campaign manager. If he doesn't run I will vote for the newly reformed Blaine who has more sense than these guys. Amazing.

KellyAlzan

“Newly reformed”

LOL

francesca_easa

Thank you Peter. It is learning experience for all of us.

PurplePickles aka L&M

So since there IS an established process it begs to question why MacShane didn't follow the "procedure"? What was his motivation for not following the procedure? I am just plain disgusted by the whole thing and actually furious...he has hurt so many people by not following the procedure....

Maybe he didn't know about the "procedure"? If he didn't know about the procedure he should resign because he's just plain stupid, who needs an Alderman that stupid?

OR MacShane knew full well about the "procedure" and then decided smearing Mr. Wilson on the Facebook was the way to go? WHY??? He wasn't looking out for the alleged accusers by going to Facebook.....he was looking to do something much more sinister...he was using his white privileges to smear someone without white privileges.

Again MacShane should resign because who can ever trust an Alderman that would smear a fellow Alderman on Facebook? Who would do that to another person? Could ever really trust this person ever again?

How would MacShane feel if he had been the one smeared on the Facebook? Why didn't he stop and think about that? It would appear not, so it shows an incredible lack of morals and empathy, so who would want an Alderman that has no morals nor empathy?

Can anyone ever really trust MacShane again, that he has anyone's best interest at heart, other than his own? I would say nope....

What woman in her right mind would want someone like MacShane as her advocate?

By bringing the allegations to Facebook instead of going through the established procedure, MacShane exploited the "accusers" for political gain and he should be ashamed of himself and RESIGN. How can any woman ever trust him again?

Really who wants or needs an Aldeman like MacShane, that clearly has shown a lack of morals and empathy. and exploits alleged victims for political gain? And is maybe a tad racist too?

PurplePickles aka L&M

MacShane probably doesn't realize how racist he is, it's hard to past our white privileges sometimes/often times and see how deeply racist we are being.

KellyAlzan

People on social media tend to get carried away. King of the couch effect. Sitting in the comfort of their home, often times barely wearing any underwear. And just writing without pausing to think.

Faithful Followers will praise crap like MacSHAME write, and stoke his ego. And then regular followers will rip into him, as has happened.

Often times people on social media are angry. It’s a place where when you’re in a Debbie downer mood, there are people that will applaud what you wrote - even if it’s bad.

All that’s happened is exactly what mayorial candidate Ba’Lane Young has been wishing for.

You’d think O’Connor would have gotten the picture with his logo scandal.

Look, if you WANT to be re-elected - you must keep a Low profile. The moment you agitate even a small group - your political career is done

islandcuban

The optics of this whole situation are difficult to feel comfortable with. Without due process, it seems that an African American was "lynched" on social media by two of his political opponents, who happen to be white....

PurplePickles aka L&M

@islandcuban

I think everyone and I mean EVERYONE, sees it that way also. You were the only one brave enough to tell the truth OUT LOUD and use words that make white people very uncomfortable to use, myself included, "lynched" is a hard word to say out loud when you are white.

Burgessdr

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

yogib

Something does not smell right with the McShame\O'conner plot to so openly and flagrently, under the guise of being the good guys try to deep six someone who most likely will succeed to be the Frederick Mayor. The Mcshame\O'conner Brand will survive about as long as O'conner's City trademark.

DickD

If you have something to say about the individual, say it to their face! If not, you are a coward and slanderous.

yogib

with you Dick D

petersamuel

Absolutely DickD. Not only is that a matter of fairness to the person accused but it is a way of starting to check out the accuracy of the allegations. It is a necessary first step in preventing exaggerated or fabricated stuff being put out there.

MD1756

While I believe MacShane's behavior was inappropriate, the allegation of "slanderous" remains to be determined. It is slanderous only if untrue.

gary4books

Did not know what to do? And why not? If there has been a violation of the law, call the police. If not, talk to a lawyer and ask for advice. Otherwise I would just be quiet. I would never present allegations as facts. Not even on Facebook.

KellyAlzan

I feel like MacSHAME is trying to distract everybody, including his fellow aldermen, from what initially drew the media’s attention.

MacSHAME declares Wilson guilty on social media. MacSHAME went off on a tangent about how wrong it was if Wilson to do what MacSHAME is declaring he did. MacSHAME even demanded Wilson’s resignation!!

All that with no nothing. No legal process. No due process. Just declared him GUILTY.

And MacSHAME is trying to act as if all he is doing is bringing a particular serious issue to light. That’s not what he was doing when he wrote that initial Facebook post. Not at all. He was ripping Wilson apart, that’s what he was doing. Not trying to be a caring and sensitive alderman, as he’s now attempting to portray himself as

Dwasserba

"For the sake of all, we need to get at the truth and not the continual din of comments on social media." It is really disturbing that in 2020 women still have to worry about reporting inappropriate behavior and run to papa!! Get all these extraneous voices out of it who lack actual power - mine is no exception. This is the "Me, Too" era, for crying out loud. I could.

KellyAlzan

Really FNP? Too have us a lecture on s topics that comes up over and over and over involving judges and elected people? Yoiu didn’t write anything we don’t already know.

Failed editorial

Comment deleted.
Dwasserba

[thumbup]girlpolitic Yes. As someone largely not on social media, I don't partake in the nit and the grit so did not know and would not have and would have PREFERRED it to stay that way until some real action is afoot.

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