Mayor accuses Santa Rosa councilman of creating hostile work environment

  • Caroline Fowler, left, and Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley attend the Dining with Daisies Gala at Luther Burbank Home and Garden, in Santa Rosa, Calif., on July 13, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley has filed a complaint against Councilman Gary Wysocky, accusing him of creating a hostile work environment at City Hall following an argument he had with City Attorney Caroline Fowler in the tense days following the Andy Lopez shooting.

Bartley's complaint triggered a confidential personnel investigation being conducted by an outside legal firm, a probe that has generated much speculation at City Hall following its revelation at a City Council meeting two weeks ago.

At that meeting, Fowler hinted at the investigation when responding to Wysocky's demand that an email exchange between the two be made public. Fowler declined, saying she was under instructions from outside legal counsel not to release the emails.

Since that time, The Press Democrat has spoken to several sources with knowledge of the series of events that resulted in the investigation.

Neither Bartley nor Fowler would discuss the investigation or what lead to it. Wysocky said he and his attorney have pressed for details of the allegations against him so he can defend himself but to date have received none.

"This is a Kafkaesque investigation at taxpayers' expense where I don't have specifics," Wysocky said.

Interviews with people familiar with the incident or the investigation reveal that Wysocky and Fowler had a heated exchange around noon Oct. 29 in a conference room in the city manager's office.

Tensions were high at City Hall that morning. A major march protesting the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez at the hands of a sheriff's deputy was scheduled to begin downtown at noon. In response, city officials on Monday evening decided that on Tuesday they would lock the doors of City Hall offices to the public at noon but allow the City Council meeting to go forward at 4 p.m.

On Tuesday morning, The Press Democrat published a story reporting that Fowler and City Manager Kathy Millison had instructed the council to say nothing about the shooting, citing the need to preserve the integrity of the shooting investigation being performed by the Santa Rosa Police Department.

The story, which ran under the headline "SR council stays mum on shooting," included emails from Fowler and Millison to the council and quoted Councilwoman Julie Combs questioning that guidance.

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