DC Council member pushes for independent review of harassment allegations against former deputy mayor

D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau introduced emergency legislation Thursday to further review sexual harassment allegations made against Mayor Muriel Bowser’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

Nadeau’s Sexual Harassment Investigation Review Emergency Act of 2023 would require an independent counsel to reexamine the initial investigation into the allegations against John Falcicchio. The original investigation was conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel.

If passed with a two-thirds vote, the bill would go into effect immediately.

“When complaints are made against those at the highest level of authority, we must pay even greater attention to the uneven power dynamic and the potential for power, influence and conflict to play a role,” Nadeau said. “Even if none of those are in play, we can’t have even the perception that they might be — it ruins trust in the process.”

Through its investigation into the accusations against Falcicchio, the mayor’s legal office determined he “more than likely” sexually harassed a female subordinate employee. The report concluded Falcicchio made unwanted sexual advances toward the employee while she was in his apartment, exposed himself to her, and sent thousands of messages between September 2022 and March 2023, including a graphic video and unwanted sexually explicit remarks.

Falcicchio has not publicly addressed the allegations.

Bowser spoke out against Nadeau’s proposed bill at a news conference Thursday, saying she does not “support an outside anything because we’ve had a thorough investigation.”

Bowser said she would be “concerned” about having an outside reviewer “who’ll have every incentive to take a very long time” in their investigation and “to run up a very big legal bill for the District of Columbia.”

Bowser’s statement came after a letter she wrote to Inspector General Daniel Lucas on June 27, in which she asked him to consider whether an outside review of the Falcicchio case by his office could help determine whether her office’s policies “work or need updating.”

Her letter asked the inspector general to examine three allegations that her legal office said were outside of the scope of its investigation: That Falcicchio showed favoritism toward employees based on his attraction to them, that there was “orchestrated” bullying of the accuser by other senior staff members, and that she faced retaliation after filing her harassment complaint.

Nadeau told WTOP on Thursday the purpose of the bill is twofold.

“One is to review the investigation done by the mayor’s legal counsel to make sure that it truly covered all of the things that it needed to, to look into things that they determined were outside their scope and really just make sure that everybody feels that was well-handled,” Nadeau said. “The second piece is investigating any additional complaints that come against John Falcicchio.”

The last opportunity for a vote on the emergency bill will be Tuesday, before the council recesses for the summer.

Nadeau said she is “feeling optimistic” about the legislation passing.

“The goal here is to ensure that all of our District employees feel confident that when they have an issue like this, they can come forward, be heard, treated fairly and that politics will not be at play,” Nadeau told WTOP.

On June 28, Nadeau filed separate legislation that would require an independent counsel to investigate whenever a complaint is made against a mayoral employee. Because it is permanent legislation, the council cannot vote until the fall session, when it has time to conduct a full hearing.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson and council members Christina Henderson, Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brooke Pinto, Janeese Lewis George, Zachary Parker, Charles Allen and Vincent Gray co-introduced the permanent legislation with Nadeau.

Nadeau told WTOP last week that emergency legislation specifically applying to the Falcicchio case would act as “a placeholder for permanent legislation in case new allegations arise between now and when the permanent bill is adopted.”

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report. 
Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

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