By David Brand
More than 120 current and former City Council staff members wrote an open letter to Speaker Corey Johnson Friday to describe their “outrage and disappointment” after the Council voted against expelling the Bronx councilmember accused of harassing women staffers and misusing public funds.
The Council voted 44 to 1 to suspend Councilmember Andy King for 30 days and to install a monitor in his office after a 48-page report by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics revealed his abusive behavior, self-dealing and ethics violations, including using council money to plan his stepdaughter’s wedding in the Virgin Islands. The suspension was the harshest punishment issued to a councilmember.
The anonymous letter signatories, 90 current and 32 former staff members, wrote that they “watched in dismay as Members of the body we proudly serve voted down an amendment to remove Council Member King, and instead, chose to keep an unremorseful serial abuser in office.”
Only 12 councilmembers — including six from Queens — voted to expel King outright. .
The staff members’ letter called on the council to reconvene and expel King. They also urged the council to overhaul its process for disciplining members by setting up an “independent process” for accountability, establishing specific consequences for misconduct and accommodating the need of staffers who have been harassed or retaliated.
“As public service employees, we work every day to serve the people of New York City: to expand protections and opportunities, to ensure safety and stability, and to make our City a more equitable place,” the letter states. “We are asking for these same protections that our Members and staff fight for every day to be extended to us.”
In response to the letter, the Council said the city charter establishes the discipline process and hired an outside party to handle the King investigation.
“This Council has shown that it is not afraid to take action when members are guilty of bad behavior,” said Council spokesperson Jennifer Fermino. “That doesn’t mean we won’t continue trying to tackle sexism and abuses of power that have been an unacceptable part of our culture for far too long.”
“In fact, we have spent the last several months reviewing all of our sexual harassment prevention practices with an expert in the field,” Fermino continued. “We’ve done more than has ever been done before, but we will continue to find ways to improve.”