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Black Diamond Mayor Dave Gordon releases harassment documents
Black Diamond Mayor Dave Gordon released his right to attorney-client privilege, which put the harassment claims against him and related documents in the public domain.
The documents include allegations against Gordon by Black Diamond City Administrator Christy Todd, who claims the mayor made harassing and unwelcome comments, emails and behavior, which included “repeated comments about my clothing, my smile, how proud he is of me, that he considers me a ‘prized possession’ and ‘a trophy.’” Todd said she also felt uncomfortable about finding the mayor had uploaded a photo of her from the internet on to his cellphone.
Todd said she was ready and willing to continue in her role as city administrator and the harassment claim “should be not be interpreted as a resignation.”
Alan Key, an investigator for the Cities Insurance Association of Washington, looked at Todd’s complaint that the mayor was engaging in a pattern of conduct that she perceived as harassing. He did not investigate Todd’s second complaint, which involved a “disagreement or misunderstanding” between Todd and Gordon regarding a reclassification and/or termination of the city planner and nature of Todd’s delegated authority. Todd asked whether Gordon “engaged in misconduct when he offered Stacey Welsh 40 hours of paid vacation if she accepted a reclassification of her position and stayed with the city for eight months.”
The investigator concluded that Todd is “clearly uncomfortable” with Gordon’s informal communication style, that Todd never attempted to communicate her concerns with Gordon or Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Benson and that the concerns told to then-interim City Attorney Stephen DiJulio were never passed along to the mayor. Key found no evidence to doubt the credibility of Todd or Gordon. He did not issue a recommendation of any kind.
The City Council passed a resolution on April 3 for another investigation into the conflict. Benson said the council did so because the original one was non-conclusive and did not offer an opinion.
“We are hoping to get a conclusion out of the new investigation,” she said. “…It allows us to know what we have to do going forward. We need a course of action.”
Benson said she didn’t know why the first investigation didn’t have a conclusion, but believes it should have. She said the second investigation would be “very inexpensive.”
HARASSMENT ALLEGATION SPECIFICS
According to the released documents, Key interviewed Todd, Gordon, Benson, City Planner Stacey Welsh and City Clerk Brenda Martinez. The documents state that Todd started a handwritten log on Jan. 22 after she received an email from Gordon that she called “disturbing” and “unprofessional” and that ended with: “Know that, as I was falling asleep last night, a tear came to my eyes. I fell asleep happier than I have been in some time. I’m so proud of you! Now carry on…”
“The email was very disturbing to me and struck me as being very inappropriate and unprofessional,” Todd wrote. “The comments about my appearance and about thinking about me as he was going to sleep were unwelcome and creepy.”
Todd also reported a joke Gordon told her that involved sex toys. She said the story and email “were unwelcome.”
Todd also noted that the most alarming emails came on Super Bowl Sunday, when the Mayor asked her to go on a “field trip” to look at issues associated with Abrams Road. Todd wondered on Gordon’s motives with “field trip” because he’d refused to visit the city facilities previously but then invited her on the “field trip” alone in the dark. She also felt a tone in the Super Bowl email hinted that their relationship was more personal than professional.
“She said she believed his comments were similar to those between a husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend,” Key wrote.
Gordon told Key he was unaware that Todd was bothered by any comments and denied any wrongdoing or sexual intent in his emails or any conversations. The “field trip” email explicitly stated that the pair should start at 4 p.m. in order to catch as much daylight as possible.
Todd said in the documents that she had concerns over being with the mayor in City Hall because, “I believe that he could be unpredictable.”
Todd also told Key during the investigation that Gordon’s behaviors and comments “escalated since she was hired.” She commented in her notes that she wondered whether the mayor “was just clueless about working with professional women and didn’t realize how inappropriate the story was in the context of a professional working relationship.”
Gordon told Key that he sometimes tries to use levity to ease the stressful government environment. He also denied telling Todd she was his “prized possession or trophy.”
“He said he did tell her he was very proud, because hiring her was the first thing he did in exercising his authority as mayor,” Key wrote. “He said he may have told her she was his accomplishment.”
Benson told the investigator that Gordon has been a “loose cannon” since day one and calls himself the “Chief Executive Officer of the City.” She felt Gordon’s emails were “very inappropriate” and that she trusts Todd.
Todd reported several emails and voicemails from the mayor in which he stated he was “very concerned about me” as well as a separate email said she had “hurt his feelings.”
Todd said she came up with strategies to avoid being alone with the mayor. DiJulio also scheduled anti-harassment trainings.
ULTERIOR MOTIVES FOR CLAIM?
Gordon told Key that he thought he and Todd have a “very good working relationship” and said he believed Todd’s harassment claim was triggered by his decision to bypass her in decisions related demoting Welsh and placing Martinez on administrative leave.
“He believed his employment decisions were the reason Ms. Todd filed her complaint,” he said.
According to the documents, Gordon told Key that he wanted to offer Welsh an incentive to stay on as an employee, while, he believed, Todd wanted her fired. The disagreement, Gordon said, led to Todd placing Martinez on administrative leave, which Gordon later overruled.
Martinez told Key that she was placed on administrative leave by Todd without an explaining why. Martinez said she had no problem working with Todd but that she “is very direct and in some cases she (Martinez) and others have felt as if they are being interrogated.” Welsh made similar statements.
Key wrote that Gordon felt Todd was trying to protect herself as a “whistleblower” in order to “guarantee her employment.”
“Mayor Gordon was clearly shaken by these allegations and regretted doing anything that could jeopardize his relationship with Ms. Todd, whom he views as a key part of his administration,” Key wrote.
Key wrote it was clear that Gordon did not realize Todd’s complaint was for sexual harassment.
“Mayor Gordon appeared shocked that his actions, behaviors or comments would be interpreted by her as sexually suggestive,” Key wrote.
According to the documents, Todd’s attorney, Jeff Downer, wrote that his client does not intend to make any claim for money damages or to file a lawsuit, but, “Should Ms. Todd suffer continuing unwelcome harassing conduct or any retaliation, Ms. Todd reserves the right to make a claim for money damages or to sue.” He wrote that Todd is entitled to have the behavior stop permanently and to be free of retaliation and for the city to “take serious remedial measures to prevent its future occurrence.”
Downer told The Reporter the investigation is still pending and no conclusions have been reached.
“We have to let the process play out,” he said.
PUBLIC ASKS THAT THE FIGHTING END
At the April 17 City Council meeting, members of the public lectured the council, mayor and city administrator for their inability to work together and “childish” antics. Councilman Ron Taylor had brought a resolution to the table that would have temporarily restricted the mayor’s ability to sign contracts without the council’s approval. Taylor said despite the common belief, the motion was “not out of spite,” but because the city is hemorrhaging money.
“(I) think it is very necessary for the council to somehow establish some sort of check,” Taylor said.
However, Taylor withdrew the resolution before it came to a vote, saying it would not work in its present form.
Following the April 17 meeting, Gordon told The Reporter that he’d never seen Todd’s allegations until he released the document to the public domain.
“It was a complete waste of taxpayer money,” Gordon said, before backtracking to say that every harassment claim deserves to be investigated.
Gordon said he has been approached by members of the public about firing the city administrator, but that he stands by his original decision to hire her and that with mediation “our working relationship will be better than ever.”
Todd, who attended the April 17 meeting but did not make any comments or clarifications, told The Reporter she did not feel it was appropriate to make a public comment on the harassment claim.
Benson said she has been asked by the city’s attorney not to comment on specifics of the investigation, but told The Reporter that she believes the council will be able to move forward no matter what the investigation finds.
“I don’t think there is one side versus the other any longer,” Benson said. “I think the air has been cleared from the standpoint that we have a relationship with the mayor now. It isn’t him against us.”