Bowser says she’s ‘devastated’ by harassment allegations against former chief of staff

Mayor Bowser talks on June 21 about the sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
In her first public remarks since a report was released over the weekend detailing sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday that she was “completely devastated” by what has unfolded.

The report from the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel showed that John Falcicchio repeatedly harassed a subordinate.

Falcicchio stepped down in March, after the allegations initially came to light.

He had been serving as Bowser’s chief of staff as well as the city’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

“I’m producing an after-action report for the government to address any weaknesses in policy or procedure,” Bowser said, adding that her administration would work with the D.C. Council, which would provide oversight as the investigation continues.

“We respect the council’s legitimate oversight role, and we’ll work with them to the extent that our employees — both the complainants and witnesses — are protected,” Bowser said.

Bowser thanked the witnesses and the complainants for their “bravery in coming forward and being candid.”

Investigators found that, on Sept. 28 and Oct. 2 of last year, Falcicchio made physical and sexual advances toward the employee while she was in his apartment.

It included “unwelcome touching of a sexual nature” in both instances, and Falcicchio “exposing his sexual organs,” according to the report.

Falcicchio was found to have sent thousands of messages to the employee on Snapchat, instant messaging applications and to her personal cellphone.

A second employee with the D.C. government made similar accusations against Falcicchio that remain under investigation.

It is not clear whether any settlement may be paid out from D.C. to the alleged victims.

“There’s no litigation yet,” said Vanessa Natale, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel. “That’s separate, however, there may be discussions.”

Natale said the allegations, while disturbing, did not appear to cross the line into criminal behavior.

“Sometimes unwanted touching and sexual harassment and behaviors associated with it are a crime,” Natale said. “In this matter, with these specific allegations, we do not find that.”

Lawyers for one of the employees accusing Falcicchio said in a statement that they were “disheartened” about Bowser’s comments regarding the release of the results.

Following the report’s release on Saturday, Bowser said she takes the sexual harassment allegations and findings seriously and referred all questions about the “ongoing, sensitive personnel matter” to the office of legal counsel, The Washington Post reported.

The lawyers for one of the women said they were not notified in advance that the report would be released publicly, nor were they told that the release would include identifying information about their client and detailed information about her allegations.

“While we agree that transparency is necessary for accountability,” lawyers Debra S. Katz and Kayla Morin said, “transparency should not come at the expense of the complainant. The release of our client’s detailed information in such a public fashion — and without the chance to prepare her in advance — blindsided us, and we are concerned that this approach could chill complainants from coming forward to report sexual harassment in the future.”

The lawyers want Bowser and the District to apologize to their client “for the way they have treated her serious allegations.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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