This week, Wisconsin Right Now exposed the harassment investigation into Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer. During the investigation, it was revealed that because Spencer is an elected official, the city believes he was not bound by the city’s anti-harassment policy.
In a follow-up article, we discuss what options the Common Council and mayor have to address this. The Common Council already has the power to remove Spencer for cause, and the mayor can suspend him during the probe. No aldermen have indicated they plan to do so; a local employment lawyer, Alan Olson, told Wisconsin Right Now, though, that the city already has an obligation to protect employees from harassment, due to federal and state law, despite the policy question.
Now members of the Common Council, Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa and Alderman Michael J. Murphy are introducing a resolution to include elected officials under the anti-harassment policy. Here’s their statement:
City’s anti-harassment policy should be applicable to ALL employees
In recent days, the city’s anti-harassment policy has been the subject of much discussion as an investigation by the city’s Department of Employee Relations (DER) concluded that the policy does not apply to elected officials. As a result, Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa and Alderman Michael J. Murphy are introducing a resolution directing the DER to determine the best way to make the anti-harassment policy applicable to all city employees, elected or otherwise.
Alderwoman Zamarripa, the resolution’s lead sponsor, believes this action is much needed. “I was surprised and dismayed to learn that the city’s anti-harassment policy does not apply to elected officials, just as many residents were,” she said. “This proposition is a simple one, as harassment should never be acceptable and there should be accountability for those who breach the trust of their co-workers.”
Alderman Murphy, the primary co-sponsor, shares the sentiment. “As an employer the city should have a strong stance against acts of harassment and there should be mechanisms in place to remedy these situations when they occur. Whether or not the offender in these situations is an elected official shouldn’t mean the appropriate policy cannot be enforced.”
Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has also signed on as a co-sponsor of the file, which will be heard at a future Council committee meeting.