Investigation finds that Assistant City Manager violated city policies
on March 13, 2013
The results of an investigation into allegations against Richmond’s Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight showed that she had violated several city staff policies, according to a statement released on Friday by the office of the city manager.
The summarized findings from the investigation conducted by the Van Dermyden Allison Law Corporation concluded that Knight had used a city vehicle while taking in a monthly car allowance that was supposed to pay for her to use her own car while conducting city business. The investigation also concluded that she had used city staff and equipment for purposes other than city duties, and that she had used city employees, equipment, storage, and the city hall address to “create free gift items—morale boosters—for City employees.” The two-page report said the items came from Knight’s “jewelry and gift business” and that Knight did not receive “any financial gain from this practice.”
The investigation also concluded that she had directed a city employee to access the email account of the employee who brought the complaint against her.
But according to the city’s summary, the investigation did not support previous claims that Knight had used surveillance cameras to spy on that employee, nor that she had violated the city’s harassment policies nor encouraged a subordinate to retaliate against her accuser.
“There was enough information provided as a result of this very thorough investigation that I believe it to be appropriate to take administrative action to correct the situation,” City Manager Bill Lindsay wrote in the release. “However, the problems did not merit termination of any employee.”
The investigation stemmed from a 59-page complaint last August by Stacie Plummer, the city’s finance manager for the library and cultural services department. In Plummer’s complaint, she stated that Knight had been receiving a monthly allowance of $450 to “drive her car for city business” while also using a car from the city. Plummer alleged that this had gone on for more than seven years.
Plummer also alleged that Knight had used the work of five human resource employees, during city hours, to benefit her own business, and that Knight had retaliated against Plummer by changing her position, transferring her to a different department and denying promotion requests by Plummer’s superiors after she “refused to do work, creating marketing materials for Ms. Knight’s jewelry business.”
In response, the city announced in December that it was hiring the Van Dermyden law firm, based in Sacramento, to look into the matter. The group’s shareholder, Sue Ann Van Dermyden, completed the investigation, which cost the city $30,000.
Knight’s attorney, Thomas F. Bertrand of the Bertrand, Fox and Elliot law firm, released a statement in response to the findings. “We are pleased that the City’s independent investigation has now been completed and that the bulk of the numerous allegations made against Ms. Knight have not been sustained,” Bertrand wrote. “To the extent that any such allegation was sustained against Ms. Knight, she acknowledges that she did make certain mistakes, she has apologized for them and she will take corrective action. The City and Ms. Knight look forward to continuing to do what she does best—serving the residents of the City of Richmond.”
Knight declined to comment further, citing her attorney’s statement.
In the city’s Friday release, Lindsay cited “employee privacy restrictions,” which do not allow the city to release the report from the investigation or to acknowledge if any disciplinary action has been taken as a result of it. When contacted by phone on Tuesday, he said, “I can’t go much further than I did in the press release.”
When asked when the investigation was completed, Lindsay said that the results were submitted to the city attorney’s office “several weeks ago.” But before the results were released, Lindsay said, Sue Ann Van Dermyden met with city attorney’s office staff.
Plummer called the limited amount of information released in the city’s summary of the investigation “frustrating.”
“All I really have is in the press release,” she said when asked to comment on the results of the investigation. “It is ambiguous on some things, but doesn’t provide information on other things.” For example, Plummer said that the release stated that Knight “did not abuse her power or apply rules unequally,” when in fact she felt the results of the investigation showed otherwise.
“I think that people will feel the outrage that I have always felt, because that is taxpayer money,” said Plummer, who said she is hoping the county’s District Attorney’s Office and the FBI will look further into the matter, now that the city’s investigation is complete. “The city policy is one thing, but state law violations are something else.”
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