City considering romance policy aimed at supervisors dating subordinates

Mahern proposal would ban certain relationships

INDIANAPOLIS - The city of Indianapolis is considering a proposal that would prohibit city supervisors from having sexual or romantic relationships with subordinates.

Democratic City County Councilor Brian Mahern drafted the proposal after news broke in August of former Public Safety Director Frank Straub's relationship with Amber Myers, then administrator of Animal Care and Control.

"You had a situation where the public safety director, who was in a cabinet-level position in the mayor's office, was involved in a romantic situation with someone who he supervised," said Mahern.

Straub resigned in April 2012 and his last day was Aug. 10.

Myers' last day was Sept. 14.

Myers and Straub now live in Spokane, Wash., where Straub serves as police chief.

The city had no policy against supervisors dating subordinates and still does not have a policy in place.

"Within government, we have to make sure we have the public's confidence," said Mahern. "It's important to do that to preserve professionalism, remove the appearance of favoritism and to protect against the possibility of sexual harassment complaints."

Myers spoke exclusively with Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney in August and said they did not start dating until after Straub resigned, and disclosed it to the city.

"I wasn't given any opportunity I didn't deserve," said Myers in August.

Mahern said while he's unaware of tangible effects of the public safety director's relationship, he thinks the city needs to take a clear stance on the issue.

"I think to a degree we dodged a bullet," said Mahern "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that's a situation that can have some bad outcomes."

Republican City County Councilor Mike McQuillen told RTV6 Mahern's ordinance doesn't go far enough.

"I'm concerned this proposal is reactionary to the Straub situation, and that's my biggest concern," said McQuillen. "I'm supportive of any proposition or proposal that would make Indianapolis' work place a better place."

McQuillen pointed out many city officials have romantic relationships with city employees including Council President Maggie Lewis, whose husband works in the Marion County Assessor's office.

"There's all kinds of conflicts that need to be addressed, whether it's between public officials or employees," said McQuillen. "I think we need to take a look at a proposal that looks at some of the real problems with conflicts of interests and handles it all at one time."

Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard, told RTV6 the city staff are also working on a policy that would apply to all city-county employees, and includes language about supervisor-subordinate relationships.

RTV6 did some checking and found the employees with the State of Indiana do not have a policy addressing the issue of managers dating employees under their supervision.

Most private companies in central Indiana do have policies in place against supervisors dating subordinates, according Jeremy York, President Elect of the Indy Society for Human Resource Management.

"It's a good practice to help maintain the integrity of the organization," said York.

York said non-fraternization policies also help ensure fairness, improve morale and help reduce the appearance of "special treatment."

Mahern's proposal will likely be considered by the City-County Council Administration and Finance committee on Nov. 13.

If approved by the full council, Mahern said they would work with city administration to come up with consequences should a supervisor develop a relationship with an employee.

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