A prominent local activist took city leaders to task for not offering a more definitive response to the allegations of a recently filed lawsuit alleging a pattern of sexual harassment in the Hyattsville police department.
In comments issued before the city council at this Monday's city council meeting, Hyattsville resident David Marshall admonished city leaders for dragging its feet in response to a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the city.
"The 11 of you are politicians. Reading that document, it's the biggest black eye in the city," said Marshall. "At this point, I'd like an explanation and some sort of guidance as to what the city is supposed to do."
Last month, the city of Hyattsville was sued by former police officer Marsha Lessard, who worked for the city police department between 2005 and 2009. Her suit alleges a pattern of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and whistle-blower retaliation within the police department.
Mayor Marc Tartaro responded to Marshall, nothing that while city officials and elected leaders have been advised not to comment on the matter, a response from the city could be forthcoming.
"As soon as we can say something, we'll be saying something," said Tartaro, responding to marshall.
"Something needs to be said publicly," said Marshall.
Since the Lessard lawsuit became public, city officials, including the mayor and former city communications manager Abby Sandel, have refused to comment on specific allegations leveled against the city. However, they have stated that sexual harassment is unacceptable behavior, referencing the city's anti-sexual harassment policy.
After the meeting Councilor Candace Hollingsworth explained the thin legal wire which city leaders walk when discussing the lawsuit in specifics.
"Of course you always wish you could say more, but in saying more you actually put the city at a disadvantage when it comes to its ability to conduct and investigation or research any litigation," said Hollingsworth in an interview following Monday's meeting. "I wish I could say more, but duty requires me not to."
After the meeting, Mayor Tartaro said that future comments about the lawsuit would be issued after consultation with the city attorney.
"There will be an opportunity to provide some information," said Tartaro. "I know no more than anybody else, other than what is public. Right now, there's not much else to know."