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November 16, 2017

Kenney: Philly Sheriff Jewell Williams should step down amid sexual harassment allegations

Two female employees are pursuing legal action; a third accuser received a settlement in 2012

Allegations Sexual Harassment
Mayor Jim Kenney; Thom Carroll photo Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

In this file photo from Jan. 12, 2017, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney answers questions during an interview in his City Hall office.

Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams should step aside amid accusations that he sexually harassed female staff members, Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday.

"I think he should step down," Kenney said in an emailed statement. "Three women have come forward – and one was paid a significant sum to settle her claim just a few years ago.”

Two staffers in the sheriff's office came forward to accuse Williams of sexually harassing them, and a third woman was paid $30,000 to settle her 2011 claim that Williams had harassed her when he was a state representative representing the 197th District in North Philadelphia, reported.

The news organization reported last week that Vanessa Bines, 40, a Sheriff's Office administrative assistant, filed a federal lawsuit last month. Another staffer, Marlaina Williams, reportedly filed a complaint with a state board this fall and plans to file a federal lawsuit on the matter.

Williams has reportedly denied the claims and declined to comment about the settlement of the 2011 lawsuit.

Also on Thursday, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women also called for Williams to "step aside" until a full investigation is conducted.

In a statement, the organization said Williams' alleged behavior is "unacceptable and only further proof of decades of rape culture perpetrated on taxpayer time through toxic masculinity and institutionalized power."

City Controller-elect Rebecca Rhynhart said in a statement this week that she was "deeply concerned" about the accusations and planned to launch a detailed audit of the Sheriff's Office next year.

"The allegations of sexual harassment, its history of financial mismanagement, and the lack of transparency in how contracts are awarded warrant a much deeper review of the Office, its operations and spending," she stated.