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Aldermen Expands City’s Sexual Harassment Rules

Author: Craig Dellimore

CHICAGO (CBS) — The campaign to end sexual harassment now includes the Chicago City Council.

On Wednesday it passed an ordinance that holds them and other elected officials in Chicago accountable.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th)  introduced the ordinance and called it long overdue.

“Sexual harassment and bullying are insidious forms of discrimination that violate federal law,” said Burke.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the timing of the new ordinance prohibiting sexual harassment was prompted by accusations against these powerful men.

“Roger Ailes, (Bill) O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey,” said Emanuel.

At an earlier hearing on the matter, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) was among those who expressed concerns about how sexual harassment complaints would be investigated and enforced. Ethics Board executive director Steve Berlin and Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke (14th) explained complaints could be filed directly with the board or Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office.

That didn’t please Austin, who often has clashed with the inspector general’s office. Her son was forced to resign from a city laborer’s position last year after an IG investigation determined he crashed a city vehicle while driving on a suspended license, and then tried to cover it up. Austin later hired her son as a ward superintendent.

“I don’t know, I’m going to have to take my name off if it’s going to the inspector general, because according to them, everybody and their grandmamma is guilty,” Austin said.

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) supports the law but insists he and colleagues already had anti-harassment policies in place.

“This isn’t something new to us. It’s something we talk about frequently in our office to make sure everybody understands what they can and can’t do.”

“A false accusation could wreck someone’s career and life. I mean, if it’s just somebody being nice to somebody,” Sposato said. “Is an alderman going to be accused of just being nice to somebody, and then they could say you did a little too much, you were a little too touchy feely? I mean, where do we draw the line here? I’m a little confused about guys just being nice and friendly to people.”

Still, amid the “Me Too” campaign the Mayor and Aldermen felt they had put it on the record.

“For whatever reason in the past it didn’t explicitly state elected officials. So it was to be explicit and to the point that elected officials were to be included,” said Emanuel.

“It’s simply demeaning and morally reprehensible and it has no place in city, county or state government,” said Burke.

50th ward Ald. Debra Silverstein voted for the ordinance. But she did not want to comment on the coverage of the sexual harassment allegations against her husband State Sen. Ira Silverstein.

She told CBS 2 News “I think we have to wait for Ira.”

 

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