A memo introduced with the proposal noted that the county already follows state and federal laws prohibiting harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, but stressed that “it is critical for the county to demonstrate that sexual harassment, unwanted sexual attention, or degrading or abusive behavior can never be tolerated.”
The measure will be discussed during committee meetings at the end of the month.
“I believe strongly that Monroe County government must be committed to building a culture of respect and dignity for all persons, especially the residents we serve,” Bello said in a news release Wednesday.
- PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
- Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell.
The legislation follows recent claims of sexual harassment lodged against public officials — most notably Gov. Andrew Cuomo and, locally, county Legislator Ernest Flagler Mitchell.
Several women who worked in state government have alleged that Cuomo sexually harassed them or created a toxic work environment.
Flagler-Mitchell, a Democrat and member of the breakaway Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, in January was accused of sending a sexually explicit photo and suggestive text messages to a 19-year-old woman.
The members of that caucus, including Flagler-Mitchell, have not signed onto the legislation.
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- Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart.
Democratic Legislator Rachel Barnhart, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the Cuomo situation showed that the county needed a clear path for complaints about sexual harassment. As more women came forward, state officials were left trying to figure out how to address them. Eventually, the governor referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office and the state Assembly began impeachment proceedings.
“This clearly spells out, ‘What do we do now?’” Barnhart said of the proposal.
The legislation would also amend the ethics code to prohibit county officers and employees from doing business with the county for two years following their employment or term of office.
Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.