Oct 30, 2023 - News

Scoop: Outside probe of D.C. sexual harassment scandal is delayed

John Falcicchio pictured at a podium

John Falcicchio was Muriel Bowser's right-hand man for more than two terms. Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

An independent investigation into the John Falcicchio sexual harassment scandal has failed to launch.

Why it matters: The probe into Falcicchio, who was Mayor Muriel Bowser's top lieutenant until resigning in March, was aimed at investigating not only harassment claims but also workplace culture and allegations of retaliation against employees who accused Falcicchio of harassment.

State of play: The D.C. Council in July directed the Office of Inspector General to hire an independent law firm to investigate Falcicchio. But the IG hit an unexpected wall.

  • To win a city contract of this size, you need to have a local small business on the bid. In this case, no local firms qualified for the $600,000 contract — despite the IG issuing two requests for proposals, the office's spokesperson tells Axios.
  • The IG hopes the third time's the charm. On Oct. 19, it obtained a waiver from the contracting requirement, paving the way for any firm with experience in sexual harassment investigations to be chosen.

Catch up fast: Lawyers for the mayor's office conducted two internal investigations into allegations that Falcicchio sexually harassed two employees, and substantiated those claims.

  • However, council members had concerns that the scope of the probe wasn't broad enough.
  • They also thought the mayor's lawyers shouldn't be the ones investigating the mayor's former chief of staff. So they asked the IG to convene the outside investigation.

What they're saying: "It's unfortunate it has taken this long, though much of the delay is procedural and technical," council member Brianne Nadeau tells Axios.

Between the lines: The IG's findings were originally due in mid-October. Now, with the IG accepting bids until Nov. 14, the investigation could take until early next year.

Zoom out: The mayor's office has for several months been revising the District government's sexual harassment policy.

  • Council member Anita Bonds tells Axios she expected the mayor to drop proposed changes to the policy last week, but they didn't come. She then postponed a hearing on the topic from Monday to mid-November.
  • Mayoral spokesperson Susana Castillo says, "there is no timeline" for the updates.

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