Edwardsville mayor tells Springfield to follow his city's lead on ethics
Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton calls it shocking that Springfield went years with no way to deal with dozens of sex harassment allegations.
“We definitely need to have systems in place," Patton, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) in the 56th district, told Metro East Sun. "I am surprised that the state doesn't have a consistent system in place to deal with this sort of activity. This has been going on for decades."
Patton spoke in the wake of legislation proposed by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) to set up a hotline for sex harassment victims. Callers would be put in touch with counselors and protective services and get advice on filing an official complaint.
The plan is something Patton said Illinois needs to have.
“This is not a new problem," he said. "It needs to have a consistent and thorough policy in place so that individuals can feel comfortable reporting harassment, intimidation and threats.”
Edwardsville has zero tolerance for such incidents, Patton contended.
“We use our HR department and our city administrator to make sure that individuals that have had these threats or the feeling that something is improper can report that confidentiality, whether it be an employee or citizen," Patton said. "We deal with those immediately and directly.
“We had a couple episodes of this that didn’t cross the line into illegal, but they certainly were unethical. We just asked those employees to look for employment elsewhere.”
Patton said it's commonplace for private-sector operations to have sexual harassment policies in place and state government should do the same.
“If you allow it to exist, whether at the state or city, you are just opening yourself up to a lawsuit, and you are wasting taxpayer dollars by trying to chase down a situation you could have remedied by having the proper policy and following through on it," he said. “It is a shame. There are plenty of important things that need to get done in Springfield, so there shouldn’t be any time for this type of behavior.
"But unfortunately, it is kind of a human failing, and that is why you have the systems in place to take care of them.”
The 56th District includes O’Fallon, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Wood River, Alton and Godfrey.