MADISON, Wis. - Madison Common Council members are rethinking the need for sexual harassment training as the list of sexual harassment allegations continue to increase around the nation.
Currently, there is no code of conduct that aldermen have to follow. Council members have pushed for sexual harassment training in the past, but failed.
Most recently in 2015, Alderman Paul Skidmore and Mayor Paul Soglin introduced a resolution that would require council members to be held to the same standards as city staff, including mandatory sexual harassment training.
A city council committee rejected the resolution. Alderman Marsha Rummel, current president of common council, argued against it during the time because aldermen are not city employees.
"We are leading the city. We are setting policy and we should lead by example. If we are not subject to the same rules of prohibited discrimination and harassment as others and rules of conduct, what kind of example are we setting?" said District 9 Alderman, Paul Skidmore.
In November, the council's executive committee agreed to review whether council members should have to meet the standards of the mayor's office administrative procedure memoranda, that includes rules and policies that city staff must follow. Rummel said the training is just part of a larger review of council policy guidelines.
Rummel did not respond to our request for comment on why her opinion has changed, but said she supports of the training and believes it is important to have in light of recent national allegations.
On Dec.1, Lisa Veldran, common council's legislative administrative assistant, sent an email to aldermen that included a copy of the city's prohibited harassment and/or discrimination policy. The policy only applies to city employees.
The email emphasized the procedure for complaints regarding elected officials.
"Please note that under current policies if the offender is an elected official the City's authority is limited to investigating and publicly reporting the allegations made against an elected official," the email said. "It is up to the public and its power of the ballot box to determine the appropriate remedy for any such violations."
In 2010, then alderman Brian Solomon was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a city employee. Solomon denied the claims. The Madison Department of Civil Rights found the alleged victim could not prove the allegation. Skidmore said he is unaware of any other sexual assault or harassment claims, but still believes aldermen need to be held to certain standards.
"It might be a hill to die on. Discrimination and harassment are wrong and we need to end it," Skidmore said.
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