An administrative-law judge will be asked to hear the sexual harassment case brought by three city employees in Fillmore against City Manager Stan Greene, the Fillmore City Council decided this week.
The city will review the judge's opinion, which is strictly advisory, before deciding whether to take action on the complaints lodged by Fillmore City Clerk Noreen Withers, accounting secretary Linda Nash and planning clerk Barbara Adams.
The three women have accused Greene of "inappropriate touching." In addition, Withers has said Greene "made verbal advances and requests of a sexual nature."
"I think this is the first step in the process," said Mayor Gary Creagle after a grueling 4-hour closed session of the City Council on Monday. "We've had complaints from the community that we've not been moving fast enough. We've conducted this in a very legal and methodical way, and we are going to continue doing that."
Greene formally addressed the charges against him for the first time during Monday's meeting. He and his attorney, Philip Cohen, frequently stepped outside the meeting to confer, and at one point, Greene appeared shaken. He would not comment on the case, but a source close to the City Council said Greene asked Council members for a speedy decision on the accusations.
Last month, Greene signed a 2 1/2-year contract, with an annual salary of $63,200.
The case could be heard within four to six weeks if it is given priority, according to Frank Britt, presiding administrative-law judge of the Los Angeles District of the state Office of Administrative Hearings.
The agency, which has an active caseload of between 65 and 70 municipal and state entities, is scheduling hearings for November, Britt said.
Under the provisions of the resolution passed by the City Council on Monday, Greene can request that the hearing be closed.
Usually, cases filed under the Administrative Procedure Act are public hearings, Britt said, but in certain situations, city or county personnel rules take precedence. Those rules can allow closed hearings in personnel matters.
The council also voted to form a committee designed to protect the women against any possible job retaliation. The committee, consisting of Creagle and Mayor pro tem Delores Day, is to be consulted by Greene and City Atty. Joseph P.D. Kern before any action that might affect the women's jobs.
In addition, the council approved a policy barring employee harassment. Its resolution spans physical and sexual abuse as well as verbal abuse "on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical handicap, medical condition, marital status, sex or age."
It also covers sexual harassment, including "unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal, graphic or physical conduct of a sexual nature which is conditioned upon an employment benefit, or unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an offensive work environment."
3rd Closed Session
Monday's meeting was the third closed-door session the council has held since the allegations against Greene surfaced last month. Three weeks ago, Withers, Adams and Nash filed complaints with the state Fair Employment and Housing Department, charging that Greene has been sexually harassing them.
None of the women has publicly elaborated on the charges.
Withers and Nash could not be reached for comment Tuesday about the council's decision, but Adams said: "I don't think much of it. I don't know how I feel."
Adams and Nash have also filed complaints with their union, Local 501 of the Operating Engineers.
Greene, 52, accepted the city manager's job last month after serving as an interim administrator since March. The City Council did not consider about 70 candidates vying for the job when they offered it to Greene, who had not applied for it.
However, one council member, Roger Campbell, recently confirmed that he was aware of Withers' allegations during contract negotiations with Greene. Campbell said he learned of the charges when he asked Withers her opinion of Greene as a permanent city manager.
But, Campbell said, he kept the information to himself because Withers told him the situation had been resolved.
The case has created a pressure-cooker atmosphere for the 14 employees in City Hall. However, asked if it has interrupted normal city business, Mayor Creagle said: "I see work being done when I go in. I don't think work is being neglected because of this. There is a lot of emotion going on, but I think these people are professionals."