When they meet next month, Hallowell city councilors will likely consider policy changes around sexual harassment motivated by a police officer’s sexual assault allegation against Chief Eric Nason last year.

A city councilor said changes are needed, and they would be the first official council response to the June 2013 allegation against Nason by a female officer, which the Maine State Police investigated for four months without filing charges against the chief.

That investigation was made public by the Kennebec Journal in a June article. In July, a second woman alleged past sexual misconduct against Nason, a claim that a private investigator hired by the city is examining.

Since the first allegation became public, the city council’s Personnel Committee, headed by Councilor George Lapointe, has been examining possible revisions to Hallowell’s employment policy, which was last revised in 2013 and doesn’t restrict supervisor-supervisee relationships.

At a meeting on Monday, Lapointe laid out a short list of changes that he said the committee will likely bring to the full council for approval at its monthly meeting in September.

Among them, he said, will be mandatory sexual harassment training for Hallowell employees and updates to the language surrounding sexual harassment. Details of those changes will be finalized and further recommendations could be made between now and then, Lapointe said.

“Clearly, we need them to update those policies,” said Councilor Mark Sullivan. “We need to make sure they fully protect our employees and restore any lost confidence in our police department.”

But missing from the list, at least for now, is a policy addressing fraternization between city employees.

Through attorneys, both the female officer and Nason have said they had a sexual relationship before the incident. While Nason says the June incident that drew charges was consensual sex, the officer says she was too drunk to consent.

Often, fraternization policies prohibit relationships between supervisors and employees or designate intermediaries to deal with subordinates in a relationship with a higher-up. Experts have told the Kennebec Journal that those policies help keep personal business from hurting the workplace.

Mayor Mark Walker wants the council to consider such a policy, but he said any such provision should be carefully crafted to affect only romantic relationships and not casual friendships between employees in a small city.

“In a small community, there are a number of considerations,” he said.

Council President Phillip Lindley said while a fraternization policy may take more time to develop, the city can implement sexual harassment training quickly for its employees. Maine law mandates annual training in public and private workplaces with more than 15 employees, which Hallowell doesn’t have.

Lindley, who also heads the state’s ConnectME Authority, said while it’s unfortunate that the Nason incident prompted Hallowell to consider harassment training, it’s difficult to foresee future issues.

“When I started as a state employee 20 years ago, we didn’t have any of this training,” he said. “And it was probably wrong.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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