BUFFALO, N.Y. — While the state considers a proposal to prohibit using taxpayer money for sexual harassment settlements, an Erie County legislator said there's no reason for local governments to wait.
"We're hearing a lot about it certainly at the national level and we heard the governor make mention of it at his State of the State address," Legislator Lynne Dixon said.
The Independent is asking the county executive and county attorney to immediately institute the policy.
"For the moment, we've sent a letter. Certainly we have resolutions pending that would explore this further. I do believe that it should be policy though," she said. "I don't believe that an abuser should be protected in any way."
The legislator pointed to the recent resignation of County Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger amid accusations of a serious incident involving a female subordinate as a reason for concern. She was clear she has no additional information surrounding those circumstances, but said it's not the only impetus for the letter.
"This isn't one alleged incident that has prompted me to take this action. This is more along the lines of what we're seeing out there right now in this country and in this community and in this state," Dixon said.
Dixon also asked if there have been any harassment settlements in the past five years and how much the county's spent. The administration said the county attorney’s office conducted and initial review and found none.
"If there haven't been cases in the past, great," Dixon said. "Can we do something to ensure that there won't be incidents in the future where an abuser is protected? We absolutely should do that. Why wouldn't you want to?”
The county executive's office said all lawsuits involving the county are a matter of public available to anybody who submits a Freedom of Information request. In addition, all claims against the county are "clocked in at the Legislature and available for any legislator to see."
While the office did not address whether it will ban using public funds, it said it will take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment in county workplaces.