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EDITORIAL: Don't keep allegations from boards

EDITORIAL: Don't keep allegations from boards

Elected officials have a right to know about employee harassment allegations

You’d think that if an employee of a town or village filed a formal complaint against the municipality over another employee’s actions, elected officials would be the first ones told about it.

Or even the second. Or the third.

But you’d be wrong.

Local officials don’t have to be told about it at all. When that odd loophole in state law reared its head in a Long Island state senator’s hometown, he decided to take action.

Sen. Jim Gaughran of Huntington has introduced legislation (S7687) that would require the governing body of any town, village, city or county to be notified within one day of any violation of the community’s sexual harassment policy or any alleged violation of human rights law.

The incident that prompted the legislation involved a complaint brought against Huntington’s public safety director for sending a profane email from his town account to two fellow male employees about a female employee last November, according to Newsday.

The town supervisor suspended the emailer for two weeks. But he only told certain town board members about the incident, while excluding others.

The excluded board members only learned about it earlier this month when local reporters got wind of it and started asking questions.

The excluded town board members said that as members of the governing body with authority to hire and fire town employees, they should have been made aware of the incident.

Of course, elected officials should have been notified. It’s their job.

Supervisors shouldn’t be allowed to secretly protect friends and political cronies from bad press and sanctions.

We elect these officials not just to make laws, but to oversee the operation of the government. And that includes when those employees violate rules and laws relating to sexual harassment.

In their oversight role, board members should also know when an employee is not performing his duties, such as when he’s out of work due to, say, a government-imposed suspension.

And even if members of the elected town board didn’t have official final say over the punishment, as the supervisor claims, they at least should have had knowledge and input into it.

Under this new bill, which also has Assembly support, records related to a claim submitted by a victim could be deemed confidential.

But under the state Freedom of Information Law, the discipline of the individual can and should be made public. 

We all should know about these incidents when they result in action.

So now, because of what should have been a routine notification on a potentially serious personnel matter, the state needs to make a new law to spell it out.

And you wonder why nothing ever gets done in Albany.

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