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Dixon: Change How Harassment Settlements are Handled in Erie County


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In a recent letter, Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon (I-Hamburg) has asked County Executive Mark Poloncarz to immediately institute new policies in county government to help fight harassment in the workplace.

Specifically she has asked the County Executive and County Attorney to ban the use of taxpayer dollars to settle harassment claims and she has also requested a ban on the county entering harassment confidentiality agreements unless requested by the victim.

Legislator Dixon also has requested the County Attorney release detailed year-by-year information on the amount of taxpayer dollars spent in the last five years to settle harassment claims, sexual or otherwise, against the county or its employees.

“We need to do more to protect our employees and those that interact with Erie County offices and departments. The use of public funds to hide harassment claims must stop. We shouldn’t protect those who don’t deserve protection. If harassment of any kind is taking place in Erie County government, residents have the right to know,” stated Legislator Dixon.

At both the state and federal level, media reports have indicated it is common practice for governments to use taxpayer funded slush funds and confidentiality agreements to hide workplace harassment and sexual harassment from the public eye. In the last few months CNN reported that Congress paid almost $17 million in settlements from the Office of Compliance since it was created in the 1990s.

Recently in New York State it was revealed former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who was accused of harassment by two former aides, settled in 2015 with two women for $580,000, with the state paying $545,000 using taxpayer money.