The title of this post may seem a little odd and maybe it is, but it is what is left of the attempt to recall Mr. Zinkin.
It is the response or Council Report given my CM Snider with reference to the investigation by the outside attorney. We publish this with permission. We have not edited this other than to remove some underlining that may have been for emphasis during the actual report.
Make of it what you will.
Thanks for your interest in the Truth.
Council Report – February 19, 2014
I am submitting a Council Report to our residents and employees summarizing the findings of a recently concluded outside investigation of alleged inappropriate remarks made by Councilmember Zinkin to female employees of the Town of Oro Valley. This report came to Council one week ago today.
As the sole woman on Council, I feel a sense of responsibility to speak for the women that are employed by the Town. No woman should have to come to work and be made to feel uncomfortable by sexually suggestive comments made by members of this Council, and then fear retribution for raising the issue with her supervisors or other Town leadership. That is what has happened here and it is totally unacceptable to me. It must stop and we must make some changes.
Our residents and employees deserve the facts. The outside investigation reveals ample evidence that two inappropriate remarks by Mr. Zinkin have been corroborated.
As much as I would like to not have to deal with this issue, I want to assure all the women and minorities that work for the Town that they deserve and have a right to come to work in a safe place.
To assure the audience, my comments have been reviewed by our Town Attorney, Ms. Kelly Schwab, to insure that my statements are factual and that it is appropriate to make this report during the “Council Reports” portion of tonight’s agenda.
The report is a public document, and is available in its entirety to anyone who wishes to obtain a copy. To do so, please contact the Town Clerk’s office.
This outside investigation was conducted and reported by attorney, Laura Lawless Robertson, of Squire Sanders, of Phoenix. Ms. Robertson has assisted the Town in the past, and her work is widely respected.
From the report of the investigation we learn:
- Ms. Robertson found (quote)“ample corroboration that the Councilmember has made at least several inappropriate comments of a sexual nature or regarding persons of Mexican national origin that have troubled Town employees and possibly third parties as well”.
- The comments were (quote) “unwelcome by the employees interviewed, and may expose the Town to liability as well as public embarrassment within the business community and with government allies”.
- Though the Councilmember states that the he has apologized to the Town Manager for offending any employees and insisted repeatedly that he never intended to offend or insult anyone, the investigator reports that (quote) “intent is not required in order to create a hostile work environment. The issue instead is what a reasonable person in the position of the alleged victim(s) perceived, that is, were the purported victims subjectively offended by the comment and would a reasonable woman in the position of the victim(s) find the behavior to be objectively hostile and unwelcoming.” Ms. Robertson further states that it is essential that the Councilmember (quote) “refrain from comments of a sexual or racial nature.”
- I can personally corroborate Mr. Zinkin’s tendencies to be degrading towards women because I have witnessed it firsthand.
- (quote) “While significant progress has been made in reducing the frequency of unwanted sexual and or national origin comments in the workplace, there remains what was described by several witnesses as a culture of distrust and fear of retaliation among employees at the Town.”
- Staff are generally reluctant to speak up. An employee interviewed (quote) “reports that staff and other Councilmembers are more aware of the Councilmember’s alleged tendency to tell off-color stories and are more likely to intervene to prevent him from doing so. In her opinion, although the Councilmember’s self-regulation has improved, he still has a predilection to tell sexually inappropriate or culturally insensitive stories, requiring increased vigilance by others such as Mr. Caton and others Councilmembers. The employee goes on to describe to the investigator there exists(quote) “a general level of concern among employees regarding the community’s reaction to the investigation into these matters, which she feels may make employees reluctant to raise complaints and, in turn, which may compromise the integrity of the investigation.”
- The Councilmember (quote) expressly denies using or intending to use his office to affect Town employee’s professional lives, adding that he “can’t control people’s paranoia”.
- (quote) “ Mr. Caton has implemented parameters on Town staff being alone with Councilmembers.” Because an elected official (quote) “cannot be removed from the work environment or transferred away from the employees who made the internal complaints, the Town faces a challenging task providing the appropriate buffers to address the employees’ concerns. Mr. Caton’s implementation of protocols that reduce the frequency of direct interaction between employees and Councilmembers outside his presence have been largely successful. They insulate employees from uncomfortable communications and should remain in place and be enforced.”
- Ms. Robertson outlines the importance of training now suggested for all Councilmembers, in addition to staff. She states (quote) “Given the seriousness of this issue, it is expected that ALL Councilmembers would voluntarily commit to training”. This recommendation is made even though Councilmember Zinkin has already voluntarily participated in and completed an online sexual harassment course in the fall of 2013. Town Attorney Kelly Schwab advises me that Council should implement the recommended policy and additional training remedies for employees and all Council members in order to reduce potential liability of the Town.
Councilmember Zinkin’s actions have resulted in a toxic work environment for Town employees, strained relations between Councilmembers, increased costs to the taxpayers, and exposed the Town to potential liability.
If Mr. Zinkin were an employee of the Town, the results of this investigation would likely yield at least a reprimand, if not termination. Councilmember Zinkin is an elected official. The Mayor, Councilmembers, the Town Manager and the Town Attorney have no authority to take action against him. As an elected official, he is accountable only to the voters.
Councilmember Zinkin’s actions will cost the taxpayers, beginning with the cost this investigation of $8,500. There will be added costs associated the implementation of new training programs for Town employees and Councilmembers. I believe those changes are necessary. There is also the potential for unknown liability costs associated with Mr. Zinkin’s behavior.
Tonight I am asking Council to direct staff to prepare a report laying out a timeline to implement the recommended policy changes and new training programs for staff and Council, including budget estimates .
It is important that I make these comments tonight because it is my message to every employee of the Town that you can come to work and not fear being subjected to comments of a sexual nature, or racially charged jokes, or fear for your job if you speak up when you are treated inappropriately or made to feel uncomfortable.
To NOT address this head on would be to allow a toxic work environment to continue.
We need to boost morale with our employees to have a healthy organization and we need to stand together as a Council tonight on that point.
It is my hope that we will work together with the Town Manager, Town Attorney and staff to implement the recommendations of this report.
With permission from CM Mary Snider