*TRIGGER WARNING This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering.*
Sheriff Jewell Williams must resign immediately
The Inquirer reported earlier in 2018 that several former employees of Sheriff Jewell Williams have now come forward accusing him of sexual harassment, and of abusing his power to retaliate against them professionally after they spoke out. Now, a new independent investigation into one of these complaints has confirmed that the allegations are true.
Reporter Mensah Dean's report included some of the more disturbing allegations from the federal civil lawsuit filed this week, which paint a picture of an extremely toxic office culture.
“On multiple other occasions, Sheriff Williams would also summon Complainant to his office, steer her into the corner, and attempt to kiss her. On other occasions, Sheriff Williams invited Complainant on vacations for the express purpose of a romantic liaison.”
"She said she rejected all of Williams’ sexual advances, which turned into jealousy-driven harassment in December 2013 when he became aware that she was dating another office employee, the complaint states.
Among the things he allegedly told her: “I’m jealous that he gets to go home with you and not me”; “I’m hating on your relationship”; “You should leave him … and be with me”; “I’m gonna transfer your boyfriend and put him on the overnight shift so y’all can’t spend any time together”; “I haven’t had sex in two years, so if I’m not happy no one’s gonna be happy.”
According to the complaints, the harassment was so severe that each of these women had to take medical leave from work for mental health reasons.
According to Dean's report, the House Democratic Caucus acknowledged this week that they paid $30,000 to settle a 2011 harassment claim from a legislative aide in Williams's state representative office (the notorious 197th House District), so there's already one confirmed instance of harassment that fits the pattern.
Sheriff Williams is denying these accusations, but there's no reason to take him at his word, given the settlement.
Williams needs to step aside now.
Now that we know at least some of these allegations are true, it's clear that Williams is unfit for public service and should resign as quickly as possible.
In the medium term, there also needs to be a reckoning about the state and local Democratic parties' role in enabling this kind of behavior. It's well past time to have a citywide discussion about leveling up the minimal ethical standards that both the City and the parties should require of politicians to be eligible for a taxpayer-funded paycheck, and party support for election.
Paying to settle sexual harassment claims against lawmakers is not what anyone gives the House Democratic Caucus money for, and their behavior here is shameful. Williams should have to pay back the $30,000 personally.
It's also time to talk about abolishing the Sheriff's office as an elected position once and for all. The combination of these harassment charges with the start of former Sheriff John Green's bribery trial this month provides the perfect opening for that conversation.
First things first: Let's turn up the heat on Sheriff Williams to step aside. The more signatures we get, the more elected officials in City Council and the state delegation will have to come off the sidelines.
Sign and share this petition to demand Williams step aside