City releases report on allegations against Wilson

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Trevor Baratko, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
·4 min read
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May 5—The results of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Frederick Alderman Roger Wilson released Tuesday night was short on details but called into question the past behavior of Wilson.

The four-page report disclosed Tuesday night by the city of Frederick was based in part on interviews with eight women who described interactions with Wilson. It found "sufficient evidence to conclude that Alderman Wilson relied on his position as an Alderman to gain the acquaintance and trust of women in the community" and that Wilson "then used a pretense of helping these women as an opportunity to request that they engage in sexual relationships with him."

However, the investigation, conducted by Baltimore-based lawyer Karen Kruger, concluded that "Mr. Wilson's conduct does not constitute legally actionable sexual harassment under State or federal law."

"If anything, that sounds like flirting," Wilson said in an interview Tuesday night. "If I did anything to that effect, that would be what I characterize it at."

The report was released following a closed-door meeting with the mayor and aldermen where the board voted 4-0, with one abstention, to release it.

The accusations against Wilson were first made public in a Facebook post by Wilson's colleague, Alderman Ben MacShane, in December. The post, which did not go into detail, stated Wilson had engaged in inappropriate behavior with numerous women.

At the time, Wilson described those allegations as false and slanderous.

The investigation also looked into MacShane's role in publicizing the accusations on Facebook and found that MacShane did not defame Wilson in publishing the post.

The women involved in the accusations have not wished to go public with their claims, according to both the investigator's findings and previous reporting by the News-Post.

Kruger, the investigator, wrote she interviewed eight women in connection with allegations against Wilson, "six of whom alleged that they had been subjected to unwelcomed sexual advances."

She continued, "Of these six, the complaints of two arose from events that occurred when Mr. Wilson was an Alderman for the City of Frederick. These two witnesses alleged that Alderman Wilson used his position as a means of meeting them and offering a mentoring relationship to aid them professionally, but then — unexpectedly — suggested a sexual encounter."

Asked whether he agrees with the investigator's assessment that he requested they engage in a sexual relationships with him, Wilson said in an interview Tuesday night, "Absolutely not."

Wilson said the findings make clear he didn't sexually harass anyone.

"[The report] still leaves the thought out there — the cloud out there — that I did something, but it didn't rise to what I was alleged to have done by Alderman Ben MacShane," Wilson said, "which was sexual harassment, coercion, quid pro quo. I am glad that the details are out there in the public for the voters to decide. But clearly this says that I am not guilty of sexual harassment. That was just an awful accusation and didn't give me an opportunity to refute it. Now we have an independent investigation that says just that."

Wilson is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor against incumbent Michael O'Connor. In addition to Wilson and O'Connor, the following candidates are running for mayor, according to the city's website: Republicans Jeremy Darius Abbott, Steve Garrahy and Steven Hammrick and Democrats Jennifer P. Dougherty and John Funderburk.

A second objective of Kruger's report sought to find whether MacShane defamed Wilson. On that item, the investigator stated MacShane's actions were protected under the First Amendment.

"Mr. MacShane, upon receiving the first allegation of misconduct, endeavored to obtain and did obtain additional information that tended to corroborate the first complaint," the report states. "The witness who subsequently contacted him and whom I interviewed further verified the alleged pattern of conduct that can fairly be described as unwanted sexual advances. Accordingly, I conclude that Mr. MacShane had a good-faith basis for believing the allegations and was speaking out on a matter of public concern when he issued his Face Book messages in December 2020."

MacShane said Tuesday night he was thankful the women were "courageous" in sharing their stories with the investigator. He said the situation led to ongoing work in creating city policies to deal with sexual harassment or impropriety by a city official.

MacShane said "it's valuable" that Wilson's "horrible treatment" of women in this community is being discussed.