There's no sexual harassment policy on the books that governs the conduct of elected city officials in Phoenix — for now.
Led by Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego, a measure to research and create a policy for the city's elected officials passed unanimously at a general Council meeting on Wednesday.
At the meeting, Gallego cited the ongoing discussion of sexual harassment in the Arizona State Legislature after multiple sexual harassment allegations against state Representative Don Shooter. The potential new policy at the city council also follows a nationwide conversation about harassment and a wave of misconduct allegations against men in Hollywood, media, and government.
“Harassment happens at all levels of government," Gallego said in a statement after the measure passed. "The city of Phoenix needs a way to handle harassment complaints when the accused is an elected official. Victims need to know that they will be heard.”
There was some discussion about whether the new policy would only apply to Council members or whether it would apply to other city officials — commission and board members, for instance.
"Just like this particular motion in the Senate," Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said, "if we don't have anything that's in place for elected officials, if we don't have anything in place for those on boards and commissions, perhaps this is the time to do it all."
However, Gallego pointed out that power differentials exist. The process for addressing and reviewing harassment allegations against a powerful Phoenix elected official might have to be be handled differently than harassment by a member of a village planning commission, for instance.
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"To me, it is substantively different when it is an elected official, a person in power, doing the harassment," Gallego said. "And we've seen at the Arizona State Legislature real discussions about what is the procedure, and who can be accountable to the elected officials. And it's a part of a national conversation which has happened particularly in state legislatures, but at all levels of government."
Nevertheless, the Council motion was ultimately revised to ask staff to create a policy that addresses cases where sexual harassment occurs in board and commission service, too.
On Tuesday, the second day of the legislative session, Shooter addressed his behavior and some of the complaints against him on the floor of the legislature. Later, the legislature held a mandatory harassment and discrimination training.
Council members also asked staff to study private-sector sexual harassment policies. The measure now goes to city staff who will study and create the policy before returning to the Council.