By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa’s city manager is recommending the entire City Council readopt its code of conduct and undergo additional training in the wake of the investigation into whether Councilman Gary Wysocky created a hostile work environment at City Hall.
Kathy Millison informed the council of her recommendation Monday and publicly disclosed it Thursday, a week after the revelation that the six-month investigation had recently been concluded.
Millison made the recommendation in consultation with the outside attorney who conducted the investigation, Morin Jacob, in part to demonstrate the council’s commitment to maintaining a positive work environment for its employees, she said.
“Because of the unusual nature of this kind of complaint, it’s important, I think, to have an opportunity for the council to demonstrate to the public and to the employees that they take these things seriously,” Millison said.
Mayor Scott Bartley filed a complaint against Wysocky in early November after he overheard a loud argument between Wysocky and City Attorney Caroline Fowler in a conference room in the city manager’s office on Oct. 29. That’s the day City Hall was closed and two public meetings were canceled in response to a downtown march by people protesting the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez on Oct. 22.
The city hired an outside attorney to investigate the allegation, the results of which remain confidential. Wysocky has dismissed the probe as baseless and a waste of money. He has also characterized it as an abuse of power by the mayor and indicative of a “culture of secrecy at City Hall.”
Despite his calls for greater transparency, Wysocky has refused to turn over the letter he received informing him of the resolution of the case. He says the letter confirms he didn’t violate the city’s anti-harassment discrimination policy, but asserts he failed to treat the Bartley and Fowler with respect.
He says he doesn’t mind if details of the investigation are released, but says it should be city that does it, not him.
Bartley said the recommendations speak for themselves and indicate that something inappropriate did transpire.
“Obviously, the recommendations were made for a reason,” Bartley said. “Why would that come out as a recommendation if nothing happened?”
He declined to discuss the specific findings of the investigation, calling them confidential. But he has previously said he has an obligation to uphold the city’s “zero-tolerance policy” for people who create hostile work environments or commit harassment “regardless of their position.”
Millison proposes that the council re-adopt its code of conduct, and consider a policy change requiring it to be readopted annually. She also proposes scheduling a future public study session to provide “additional training in the prevention of harassment, discrimination and retaliation” to the council. The training is in addition to what is required by state and federal law, she said.
Asked about Millison’s recommendation for additional training, Wysocky noted that the council had just paid $20,000 to a Napa psychologist to evaluate the city manager and city attorney and hold a session aimed at helping City Council get along better.
“Apparently we’re still in therapy,” Wysocky said.
He questioned the impartiality of the recommendation, noting that the attorney’s San Francisco law firm, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, is on retainer with the city and likely wants to preserve that relationship with the city.
He noted that Millison’s email mentions publicly for the first time retaliation. Wysocky said the letter he received from the outside attorney also mentioned that a charge that he had retaliated against someone had not been substantiated.
Wysocky said that was the first indication he had that the outside attorney was investigating more than just the charge by the mayor. He declined to name the individual who claimed he retaliated against them. But he said the letter states he did not retaliate against the individual in comments he made in The Press Democrat story that ran on Dec. 3.
The story reported the existence of the investigation for the first time. In it Wysocky claimed that it was Fowler who spoke to him inappropriately, raising her voice at him and making false accusations against him, something Fowler denied.
The story and the letter together make it clear that in addition to Bartley’s complaint, Fowler filed a separate complaint against Wysocky alleging retaliation.
He said Millison’s announcement was no surprise because the outside attorney’s letter recommended additional training.
“I have moved on. There is nothing there,” Wysocky said.
Fowler did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday, a day City Hall is closed.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com. On Twitter @citybeater.