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Santa Rosa leaders diverge over hostile workplace inquiry

The day after the revelation that Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley had filed a complaint accusing Councilman Gary Wysocky of creating a hostile work environment at City Hall, the two city leaders expressed sharply different views of the resulting investigation.

At the top of the City Council meeting Tuesday, Bartley said it is his obligation to uphold the city's "zero-tolerance" harassment policy, while Wysocky derided the "trumped-up investigation" and "culture of secrecy" at City Hall.

The men were reacting to an article in The Press Democrat on Tuesday outlining the complaint Bartley filed following a heated argument Wysocky had with City Attorney Caroline Fowler in the tense days following the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff's deputy who mistook his airsoft BB gun for an assault rifle.

Bartley said he could not discuss the complaint directly because it involves a confidential personnel matter. But he said all council members had received training in the city's harassment policy and he and other members are required to uphold those standards.

"We must have a zero-tolerance policy for people regardless of their position who create hostile work environments and/or commit harassment," Bartley said. "Our employees deserve nothing less than this."

He added that he was forming a task force on open government and had asked Vice Mayor Robin Swinth and Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom to lead it.

Wysocky said Bartley, who reportedly overheard the exchange, never spoke to him about his argument with Fowler, but instead hired an outside attorney "at taxpayers' expense" to conduct the investigation. Wysocky said he spoke to the attorney two weeks ago to schedule an interview but has yet to be given specifics of the complaint.

"Based on the newspaper article, it appears this investigation is related to my disagreement with the city attorney and what I regard as her efforts to censor council members' First Amendment rights to speak out on behalf of the people who elected us, in this case as it related to the tragic death of a young boy," Wysocky said.

He said he continues to disagree with Fowler on this and several other issues.

"As a democratic institution, the Santa Rosa City Council should be able to agree to disagree without these disagreements resulting in false charges and trumped-up investigations," he said. "For the record, this complaint has no merit."

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