If you’ve been following the Plain Dealer’s stories
about the sexual harassment allegations against City Council President Martin Sweeney, you may be getting a sickeningly familiar feeling in your stomach.
Here’s the scenario: Accomplished, well-liked woman working for city government accuses powerful man (who happens to be an ally of Mayor Frank Jackson) of sexual harassment. The man tries to pay her off and get rid of her. It doesn’t quite work. Yet somehow, the woman’s reputation still ends up being tarnished, her complaints dismissed as “gossip”
The man keeps his job.
In this case, the woman is city council clerk Emily Lipovan.
But just a few scant months ago, it was another well-regarded woman, Helen Piffard, who worked for the Cleveland school district and accused the mayor’s brother, Nick Jackson, of harassment. Piffard was responsible for explaining the district’s massive school construction plan to the community. Many parents counted on her as a kind, helpful resource in a district that routinely stonewalls requests for information.
But this winter, after the district conducted an investigation that blamed her for all the inappropriate sexual behavior, Piffard quit. Jackson, a patronage appointee at the district who has been accused of sexual harassment before [“The Face of Incompetence
,” Oct. 11, 2006], of course kept his job.
This is what they call in the real world "a pattern." Sadly, here in Cleveland, we call it "government." -- Lisa Rab