#MeToo: D66 leaders apologize for not handling harassment allegation
During a press conference on Thursday, D66 party chair Victor Everhardt fell on his sword for the way in which the party’s board dealt with the conclusions of an investigation into allegations of transgressive behavior by prominent party member Frans van Drimmelen. D66 leader Sigrid Kaag, the current finance minister for the Netherlands, also said she regretted how the situation was handled.
An article by the Volkskrant released last weekend showed that the party’s board commissioned an investigation into allegations that Van Drimmelen stalked and blackmailed a female employee. The investigation and final report had yet to be completed by the time of the 2021 Tweede Kamer election, at which point Kaag was the leader. Though Kaag said the party was a safe workplace for all employees, neither she nor the board responded to the victim’s repeated attempts to contact them about progress in the case.
Everhardt apologized to the victim of the MeToo case, and to members of his party. He said he now acknowledges that in 2015 and 2016 there was indeed evidence of transgressive behavior by Van Drimmelen, a party strategist, towards a female colleague, and that action should have been taken against this.
He also blamed himself for not doing so. "I'm very sorry." D66 failed to offer the victim "a safe working environment," he said. "Everything that happened last week must have been very difficult for her." But according to the party chair, that also applies to members, from local politicians to volunteers.
The party board claimed it was very concerned that the woman was not adequately protected. Because D66 let Van Drimmelen stay on as chair of its talent committee, she encountered him again and again. The board also “did not make a correct assessment” last year regarding the publication of the investigative report on the matter last year.
Kaag also expressed regret in the transgressive behavior case. There should have been consequences related to this case earlier, she said during the press conference. Kaag went on to say that she would have preferred to have spoken out on the issue earlier.
"The delay was far from ideal," she stated. However, she wanted to await the conclusion of the board's investigation, as she considered the thorough, diligent, and conclusive nature of the report to be of the utmost importance
D66 no longer sees reason for a new investigation, said Everhardt. He emphasized that the party has already taken many steps to ensure a safer culture. The party members will still have the opportunity to discuss the matter. A membership meeting will be held during the weekend of May 13 for this purpose.
At the urgent request of the party board, Van Drimmelen canceled his D66 membership this week.
Reporting by ANP