Open Letter to Speaker Johnson and the New York City Council from Staff
Dear Speaker Johnson and Members of the New York City Council,
As staffers of the New York City Council, we write to express our outrage and disappointment in the Council’s failure to expel Council Member Andy King from the Council. After hearing numerous empty calls for Council Member King to resign, we all 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 — despite a nearly 50-page report of substantiated charges detailing how this Member repeatedly harassed, retaliated against, and put his staff in dangerous situations.
Over the years, certain Council Members have regularly mistreated, intimidated, and underpaid staff, while Members are given near-unlimited discretion over the treatment of their staff. We have few avenues to meaningfully launch complaints without fear of retaliation or intimidation. There are, internally, many known accounts of Members abusing their staff with little to no risk of accountability, hence our decision to sign this letter anonymously.
As Council staff, we no longer consider these repeated failures of accountability as singular events. This is hardly the first public charge of improper member behavior this term; Monday’s vote is just one more example of the Council’s repeated failure to protect staff.
Despite extensive evidence of his harmful behavior towards several staff over the course of many years, Council Member King will continue to manage his own staff and subordinates, in addition to interacting with other staff at the Council. This is unacceptable. The fact that victims of his abuse will continue to endure the trauma of working with this Member, after his persistent harassment and attempts to silence staff, is nothing short of disgraceful.
During Monday’s vote, several members acknowledged that Council Member King is not fit to supervise staff, and has shown no remorse or interest in learning from his traumatizing actions. The behavior exhibited by Council Member King is harmful and destructive to staff and morale, and calls for nothing less than complete expulsion from this body. Thus, we call for the Speaker and the Members of the New York City Council to do what they should have done the first time this issue came to the Council floor: remove Council Member King from this body. Serving the public is a privilege, and should be revoked for those who have proven themselves unable to uphold the values and conduct expected of the office.
Steps should also be taken to better the Council’s process of safeguarding staff against harassment, retaliation, and harmful behavior through a real accountability system and formalized protections. By pointing to the fact that the Council does not have an established standard for expulsion, the body has set a harmful precedent. In essence, the Council has demonstrated that egregious incidents such as this do not meet the bar for removal. We are left to wonder, what, if anything, constitutes treatment unacceptable enough to elicit removal? What is the point of filing a complaint, if retaliation and lack of accountability is the norm?
In light of your repeated failure to protect Council staff, we call for the following changes to the Council’s accountability process:
- House the process of addressing harassment or abuse outside the political process. A political body should not be expected to hold Members of their own body accountable. Instead, we believe an independent process outside of Members’ political considerations should be enacted to avoid the conflict of interest in the Council attempting to hold itself accountable. Member staff should both be part of the redesign process and any process moving forward.
- Engage and accommodate the needs of affected staffers. Any process established to deliberate Member conduct and resulting consequences should meaningfully engage the target(s) of abuse, centering and prioritizing their needs, especially when it comes to eliminating interaction with the harmful party. This must include accommodations such as relocating staff to an office outside the purview of the Member whose conduct is in question, and financial restitution for those terminated due to retaliation.
- Establish set consequences for misconduct and harmful behavior. There should be clearly predefined consequences for harmful behavior directed at staff, including the level of behavior that warrants expulsion so Members engaged in misconduct proceedings are curtailed from interacting with staff. These predefined consequences will ensure that political discretion is removed from the equation. Any behavior that obstructs justice, retaliates against whistleblowers, demonstrates a pattern of abuse, and/or increases tax payer liability should be automatic grounds for expulsion.
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. We are asking for these same protections that our Members and staff fight for every day to be extended to us. To not be harassed, retaliated against, threatened, or put in unsafe working conditions while we work to better the City of New York.
137 Staffers (93 Current, 44 Former) of the New York City Council, & counting
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