Speakers at the year’s final City Council meeting called for Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight to be put on administrative leave after a complaint from a whistleblower launched an investigation into Knight’s use of public funds.
A 59-page complaint filed by city employee Stacie Plummer says that Knight used a city car for her own personal use, and had employees in the human resources department “manufacture baby shower favors, and her jewelry business marketing materials” on city time.
Knight did not attend Tuesday night’s council meeting, but Plummer spoke during public comment, backed by supporters of her complaint.
Audience members cheered Plummer’s name, calling her a “hero” when she came to the podium.
Plummer, the finance manager for the Library and Cultural Services Department and Knight’s employee, wrote in her complaint that because Plummer had declined to help Knight with a request related to her business, Knight changed Plummer’s position and title several times, adding on responsibilities with no extra pay.
“To come to work every day and try to do a good job and to be subjected to persecution and blamed for other people’s crimes– that is wrong,” Plummer said at the council meeting. “So I needed to say something so you would know that this needs to stop for all of us.”
Councilmembers and City Manager Bill Lindsay did not address the investigation.
At the meeting, a resolution to clean up the Zeneca site also brought in many public speakers.
“It certainly is to all our benefit to have this site cleaned up,” Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said, while presenting the item. McLaughlin said that with Lawrence Berkeley National Lab coming to the city, now was the chance to “compel the Department of Toxic Substances Control to do the job.”
Councilmembers Corky Booze and Nat Bates were initially questioning the necessity of bringing the issue forward, saying that the resolution would not provide any new direction on the cleanup.
Long-time Richmond activist Sherry Padgett used the public comment period to discuss her experiences working near the site. She was diagnosed with two cancers, which she said she believes to have been caused by her exposure to toxic waste.
She said a major reason the site hasn’t been cleaned up is because of the pushback from two unnamed major corporations.
“The property remains a skull and crossbones — witches’ brew,” Padgett said.
Although Booze said initially he did not see a point in the resolution, he ended up voting for it because of Padgett’s convincing story.
“I know you as a crusader of all people in the city of Richmond,” he said. “I am voting for this because the name Sherry Padgett is on this.”
The resolution passed unanimously, with the exception of Councilmember Jovanka Beckles who was absent.
The meeting ended with the approval of four appointments and reappointments for positions in the city. Marilyn Langlois, a council candidate and former aide to Mayor McLaughlin, was appointed to the Planning Commission and Roberto Reyes was reappointed to the Planning Commission.
Bates, who joined Booze in voting against the appointments, said he saw them as politically motivated. “You are loading this city up with all of your friends,” Bates said. “All of them are anti-business and they are socialists and that’s my position. I will not vote for Mr. Reyes, who is a founding member of the progressive alliance, and Ms. Langlois, who is a member of the progressive alliance.”
The City Council will be adjourned until Jan. 8. The first meeting of council business for the new year will be on Jan. 15.