March 30, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Jimmy Van Bramer and several candidates running for elected office are calling on Council Speaker Corey Johnson to release the findings of an audit of the City Council’s sexual harassment policies ordered nearly two years ago.
Van Bramer, who represents the 26th council district and is running for Queens Borough President, penned a letter to Johnson Monday demanding that he make the results of the audit public.
The letter was signed by nearly a dozen candidates running for local office, including Queens council candidates Tiffany Cabán, Moumita Ahmed and Carolyn Tran, as well as Council Member and Comptroller candidate Brad Lander.
“We have a responsibility to our staff and constituents to make the Council a harassment-free workplace and that means publicly reviewing the findings of this taxpayers-funded audit so we can update our policies accordingly,” Van Bramer said during a press conference on Zoom Tuesday morning.
Their calls come amid increased scrutiny on sexual harassment in Albany, where Governor Andrew Cuomo faces multiple accusations. They said such issues extend beyond Albany, citing past incidents within the City Council.
“The pervasive culture of workplace harassment and abuse in politics is not limited to Albany,” the March 29 letter reads. “The New York City Council has periodically failed to protect staff from abusers, like former Council Member Andy King.”
The City Council hired the firm Redword Enterprise to review its internal policies related to sexual harassment issues in May 2019. The council spent nearly $200,000 in doing so, but the findings of the audit were never released.
The Council hired the firm after King was accused of sexual harassment by multiple female staffers. King was expelled from the Council last fall, months after Van Bramer introduced a motion to expel him.
Redwood Enterprise met with staffers and held focus groups, but didn’t issue a report before its contract expired on April 30, 2020.
Spokespeople for both the Council and Redwood Enterprise told the New York Daily News that the pandemic delayed the review process — but Van Bramer and the other candidates said there’s no more time to waste.
“We are not asking for anything that is outrageous or difficult or impossible,” Van Bramer said at the press conference. “It must happen and it must happen now.”
He said that the Council must also hold hearings on the audit results as a means to improve internal policies on sexual misconduct.
Cabán, who is running for the District 22 seat in Astoria, said the Council needs to set an example with its policies to protect staff.
“The New York City Council must lead by example by creating an environment where people can do their jobs without fear of abuse from their employers or their colleagues,” she said at the press conference. “In my mind, if our government’s leaders can not do this within their own halls, how can we expect them to root out and solve these issues in our communities.”
A spokesperson for Johnson told the Daily News that the Council is “wrapping up the review,” but didn’t say when any findings would be released. The Queens Post was unable to immediately reach Johnson for comment.