Schaerbeek's #MeToo: Councillor suspended at his own request

Schaerbeek's #MeToo: Councillor suspended at his own request
Schaerbeek's disgraced Councillor for Education Michel De Herde. Credit: Belga.

After being charged with attempted sexual assault on a student, Schaerbeek Councillor Michel De Herde (DéFI) has been, on his request, placed on leave from all of his duties. He will, however, continue to serve on the municipal council.

Last Wednesday, police charged De Herde, Schaerbeek's Councillor for Education, with attempted sexual assault on a student, who made an accusation against him in early October.

He had previously been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint by his colleague Sihame Haddioui (Ecolo), the municipality's Councillor for Equality, which led to activists to call for his suspension in front of Schaerbeek's town hall.

On 19 November, De Herde wrote to the mayor of Schaerbeek's office, requesting that he be relieved of his duties as Councillor for the municipality's budget and French-speaking education, nurseries and extracurricular activities.

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In the interim, the mayor will assume the disgraced councillor's responsibilities, with the municipal college to convene in the coming days to discuss how best to manage the suspension, which is slated to last at least three months.

However, De Herde will remain a member of the municipal council, as he requested in his letter to the mayor.  De Herde was granted this by arguing to the mayor over his his presumption of innocence needing to be maintained. The councillor denies all accusations levied towards him.

This will almost certainly have activists wondering why Michel De Herde was allowed to be suspended ostensibly of his own volition, considering the seriousness of the allegations.

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