AURORA | Aurora City Council members completed a two hour sexual harassment training during a special study session Monday, per discussion of a resolution that would prevent the city from using taxpayer money in some sexual harassment cases if passed.
Now, the resolution is slated to make a return. It was tabled last month. Some council members said they didn’t dislike the spirit of the resolution, but they wanted to have some kind of training before officially voting on it.
Julie Pate, an employment attorney who has completed investigations and other harassment trainings for the city in the past, led the session.
Twenty years ago, there weren’t a lot of quid pro quo sexual harassment cases, she said. But that all changed in October, following the harassment allegations against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the start of the #MeToo social media movement.
“It used to be a statement to say we don’t see this anymore. Well, we do. It’s become very public,” Pate said during the training.
It was also #MeToo that persuaded council member Charlie Richardson to submit the sexual harassment resolution.
“If it can happen in Hollywood, it can happen in Aurora,” he said in a previous committee meeting.
If passed, the resolution would bar taxpayer money from being used in defending council members and department heads if they didn’t attend a sexual harassment training.
City staff said this training would count toward that requirement and plan to schedule trainings following elections in the future.
Because city council members aren’t covered by the sexual harassment policy that applies to most city staff, she said they can be in an awkward space. But some council members suggested that they may adopt a set of polices specifically for the council.
Among the scenarios Pate presented council was one that included inappropriate text messages. Pate said, like in the case of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s text messages to a police detective in 2012, it shouldn’t be assumed that because a personal cell phone can appear to be private that it won’t end up the subject of a workplace sexual harassment case. Even six years later.
Often times, a cell phone can be the best evidence, Pate said.