To Mayor Michael O’Connor and the Board of Aldermen for the city of Frederick:
First and foremost, we believe harassment and hostile behaviors have no place in Frederick city politics, government or affairs. All women — and every victim of abuse, harassment and any hostile behavior — have the right to share their experiences in a professional and unbiased manner befitting the seriousness of such transgressions. We believe that residents and visitors alike deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, educational environments, religious facilities, social gatherings and any other space they choose to occupy.
In light of the serious accusations recently brought forth, including potential abuse of power and the sexual harassment of members of our community, it has been made clear that there are gaps in the current city government documents that include rules of ethics and who is covered by said rules. There is no mechanism for a private resident of Frederick to report an incident of sexual misconduct against a government official. Currently, the only mechanism to report any kind of misconduct is available only to government employees through human resources. However, this does not apply to nongovernment employees or private residents. Once an incident is reported, there is no protocol in place for what the process of investigating such an incident or what possible outcomes will be. Furthermore, there is no mechanism to hold an elected official accountable if such incidents are proven to be true.
These loopholes in the system provide protection for elected officials to avoid accountability, while victims are forced into silence, having no recourse to seek justice. We also have an ethics commission with no members of color and no women. In ensuring a safe and unbiased space for victims to share their experiences, we must have inclusive systems in place that reflect our community.
We, the undersigned, are calling on you to immediately put forth legislation that will accomplish the following changes to the current governing charter documents for our city:
- Clear and concise language that includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and behavior unbecoming of an elected official as unacceptable and punishable acts covered by the code of ethics;
- The addition of a straightforward path for incidents of misconduct to be reported by community members to a human relations repartment or equivalent;
- A mechanism for elected officials to be held accountable by a human relations department or equivalent;
- A policy to ensure the diverse populations that reflect our community are immediately installed onto the ethics commission.
We must create avenues that ensure transparency and accountability from our government and elected officials. We must do so by intentionally including representatives from our diverse community and creating clear, unbiased procedures to handle claims of misconduct by elected officials. We call on you to rebuild trust with our communities and incorporate these changes for a stronger Frederick for all.
Many of the writers of this letter are involved in various organizations across Frederick County, but are writing this as a group of concerned citizens.