Kevin O’Brien, former chief of staff of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, was “quietly forced to resign after complaints of sexual harassment filed by two female city employees were substantiated,” according to a report by The New York Times.
He and three other city officials exited their jobs in a similar manner: the reasons for their departures were not publicly announced. The city claimed it was to protect those who filed the complaints against them, but in the three other city officials’ cases, the city agreed to provide a “neutral reference” to future employers: they would not disclose their history of sexual harassment allegations.
In each case, internal investigations into the complaints against the men were found credible.
One case was that of Makeda Stevenson, who feared retaliation from her supervisor if she rejected his sexual advances. She was a park cleaner in the New York City Department of parks and recreation, and she claimed that her boss Jeffrey Blount told her she would be fired for getting to work late “unless she agreed to have sex with him,” according to the Times.
Stevenson was transferred, but Blount continued his harassment, this time going to her new location and sexually assaulting her after getting her in a corner—she recorded the audio of it on her cell phone, the Times reports. Three other occasions where he pressured Stevenson into sex came to light during city investigations into the matter.
Despite all of this being revealed and substantiated during investigatory procedures, the city still agreed to give Blount a neutral reference for jobs in the future in exchange for his resignation. The city initially tried to terminate him, but he resisted those efforts.
The city claimed that the neutral reference was to protect the victims, but as the Times reports, two of these cases resulted in a lawsuit being filed by the victim before their alleged harassers resigned—thus making the case public anyway.
Another case in New York City’s parks was that of a low-level employee in the department, Taalibah Thiam, who claimed that a fellow worker, Vincent Lloyde, made threats to rape and kill her, and groped her. Her supervisor failed to take any corrective action when informed, the Times reports, and she filed a “notice of claim” with the city in 2015 and received $150,000 in a settlement.