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Queens Chronicle

City Council Sanction Jennings, Actions Called “Reprehensible”

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Posted: Thursday, April 21, 2005 12:00 am

A majority of City Council members voted on Wednesday to accept the Standards and Ethics Committee’s recommendation to sanction controversial Councilman Allan Jennings of Jamaica..

He will be publicly censured, fined $5,000, barred from serving on any City Council committee and must attend sexual harassment training.

A council source said Hiram Monserrate, of Corona, and Kendall Stewart and Erik Martin Dilan, both of Brooklyn, abstained from the vote because of disagreements over procedure. Jennings’ former election attorney, Bronx Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, also abstained, citing a conflict of interest. Two members, Charles Barron of Brooklyn and Jennings himself, voted no.

The committee recommended the strong punishments on April 11th, following an intensive investigation into sexual harassment and discrimination claims filed by four of Jennings’ female ex-employees.

The council released a more than 30-page report detailing the accusations last week. The employees alleged Jennings repeatedly touched them inappropriately, forced them to clean his home and insulted them in the workplace. After more than a year and a half of hearings and investigations, the committee found Jennings guilty of creating a hostile work environment and improperly terminating an employee.

Jennings has maintained his innocence throughout the process. At a press conference held April 12th, one day after the committee’s recommendations were reported, Jennings again claimed his innocence and vowed to fight the charges in the state Supreme Court.

He compared the council’s actions against him to a “mob hit” and his lawyer, Robert Ellis, called Council Speaker Gifford Miller “Machiavellian.”

The councilman also claimed the Standards and Ethics Committee’s closed-door hearings were unconstitutional. The state’s Committee on Open Government criticized the proceedings as well.

However, committee member David Weprin said he and his colleagues made every effort to grant Jennings due process, and the committee took their charge “very seriously.”

He called Jennings’ actions toward his employees, all made public in the report, reprehensible and confirmed the council has referred the case to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

Welcome to the discussion.