Amsterdam alderman Laurens Ivens resigns over offensive comments to female colleagues
The Amsterdam alderman in charge of the city's housing policies has resigned in the wake of a series of a series of complaints about comments he made in communication to city workers between 2019 and 2021. Laurens Ivens stepped down from his position effective immediately, Mayor Femke Halsema and Ivens wrote in separate letters to the Amsterdam City Council.
About ten different city workers, all women, filed complaints against Ivens during that time either formally or informally. "In all cases, the complaints do not relate to physical contact, but concern comments that have been experienced as overwhelming, transgressive or even sexualizing," Ivens wrote in his resignation. He said he should have been more considerate of the fact that there is a power disparity between an alderman serving as part of the city's executive board, and city officials.
Halsema said it was clear that "the behavior of the alderman has had a negative impact" on the people who complained about Ivens.
"I offer my sincere apologies to the employees involved," he said. Ivens also downplayed the severity of the individual comments, but said that combined they show a pattern of inappropriate behavior.
Halsema said she was first notified of unwanted e-mails Ivens sent to a civil servant in 2019, and was notified of "possible undesirable behavior" directed towards another. Halsema said she discussed this with him directly.
Five more reports were made against him in the autumn of 2020, which pushed the city to look closer at the alderman's behavior. Halsema and a top advisor to the executive board held another meeting with Ivens and set down rules for his engagement with other employees, Halsema wrote.
Four employees made formal complaints at the beginning of 2021, though some of those overlapped with other complaints. "As a result, I commissioned an independent, external investigation," Halsema said.
"His description is in line with the conclusions of the investigation. He indicates that he is now very much aware that his behavior was inappropriate and undesirable."
Halsema conceded that because formal complaints were not filed until 2021, it made it difficult for the city to investigate it. She pledged to do a better job providing employees with follow-up care and guidance even if they make an informal report about someone in a position of power. On this, she also asked the full city council for feedback.