Provide a “safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment.”
That’s the mission statement of New York state’s “Dignity for All Students Act,” signed into law 11 years ago with the goal of protecting our children from bullies.
Given some of the conduct we’ve seen from elected officials toward public employees, maybe it’s time we came up with some kind of bullying law for them.
These officials relish using their real and perceived authority to threaten and intimidate public employees, create a hostile workplace and make workers less enthusiastic and more unproductive.
But barring extreme measures like impeachment, it’s virtually impossible to get an elected official out of office for bullying behavior.
So until we get such a law (very unlikely), the best we can do is call on these bullies to resign.
One such elected official who should step down is Gloversville Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr.
On Wednesday, the Gloversville Common Council voted 5-2 to accept a Special Investigation Committee report that found Rowback engaged in conduct “which was harassing, intimidating and threatening to city employees.”
The report contained several instances in which Rowback made threatening or intimidating statements and gestures toward city employees, including threatening to fire or lay them off, both beyond his authority as a councilman but frightening to employees nonetheless.
One employee said he made her feel “shaken” and “extremely uncomfortable” during one encounter.
The report also accused Rowback of being untruthful in response to its allegations, indicating he wouldn’t even publicly own up to his conduct.
The report concluded this conduct “reflected poorly on the entire council.”
Does that sound like the kind of person who should hold public office?
Yes, one could say he should answer to the voters in the next election. But why should city employees have to endure this kind of behavior even a minute longer?
Also, his continued presence on the council undercuts his ability to be effective and to engage with his fellow council members and city employees.
The people of Gloversville deserve a councilman who can effectively represent them.
That’s the same argument we used in calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign.
Rowback said he’s planning to run for mayor. Fine. If the voters want him in that office knowing what they know about how he conducts himself, well, they certainly have that right.
(A bullying law for public officials might disqualify such an individual from future elected office.)
But until New York finds another way to run bullies out of office, employees and the citizens will have to put up with them.
That’s just wrong.
If these bullies were true public servants, they’d leave office on their own.