City Beat

Attorneys to Kevin Johnson: Don’t hug city workers

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson speaks to members of the press during the formal launching of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council (the successor to SACTO).
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson speaks to members of the press during the formal launching of the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council (the successor to SACTO).

Four months after a former city employee accused Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson of sexual harassment, a law firm hired by the city wrote in a confidential memo that Johnson should “be advised as to how his actions (i.e. hugging and being flirty) are being perceived” by some city employees, and that he should “refrain from hugging or touching anyone” at City Hall or at city-related events.

The legal memo, obtained by The Sacramento Bee, was written in response to a sexual harassment claim filed in April against Johnson by Ilee Muller, a former staff aide to City Manager John Shirey.

The mayor denied the allegations, and the law firm that wrote the Aug. 7 memo – Angelo, Kilday & Kilduff – conducted an investigation that determined Muller’s claim was unsubstantiated. Muller had sought $200,000 in damages from the city, but her claim was denied in May by a closed-door vote of the City Council.

While Muller’s claim was denied, the legal memo stated that an investigation by city human resources manager Kenneth Fleming found “some employees” had perceptions of Johnson’s behavior that prompted the law firm to suggest he “be counseled to refrain from hugging or touching anyone in the workplace or at work-related events (outside of a hand shake).”

The mayor’s office declined comment on the memo Thursday because it is a confidential attorney-client privileged document. However, the mayor’s campaign spokesman, Steve Maviglio, said, “the mayor has taken sexual harassment training; he’s very aware of what’s appropriate and what’s not.”

“Telling a politician not to hug someone is like telling a fisherman not to fish,” he said.

The legal advice to Johnson was one of three recommendations attorneys Carolee Kilduff and Cori Sarno provided City Attorney James Sanchez before closing their file on the harassment case against the mayor.

The attorneys also advised that Shirey, City Clerk Shirley Concolino and city director of governmental affairs Randi Knott receive training on reporting suspected cases of harassment and that the training be documented by the city. The memo stated all three “had knowledge” of Muller’s complaint against the mayor, but did not adequately report it to the city’s human resources department.

Shirey and Concolino received follow-up training on their reporting obligations, according to the memo. Knott said in an interview that she was not told about the recommendation that she receive training.

Finally, the memo recommended that “each elected and appointed official who oversees personnel undertake sexual harassment training.”

Attorney memo 

An internal city audit released last month found 1,085 of 1,112 city supervisors who had been asked to take the training had done so. Johnson requested in August that every member of the City Council take the training as well, and every member had done so by September, according to the audit.

Muller’s claim alleged that Johnson summoned her to his private library on City Hall’s fifth floor on Dec. 26, 2013. Once there, according to the claim, the mayor gave Muller “an unwelcome and close hug, pressing his body against (her), then felt along her torso.” Johnson then “pressed his body against hers and asked her if she ‘felt it,’ ” then tried to kiss Muller, according to the claim.

The claim alleged that Johnson harassed Muller, 33, multiple times over a seven-month period.

According to the claim, “(Muller alleged) on information and belief that Mr. Johnson had acted inappropriately with respect to other city employees and representatives in the past and that representatives of the city knew, or had reason to know, of facts establishing this.”

Other past allegations of sexual misconduct against Johnson have resurfaced recently.

A video first posted by the website Deadspin last week showed a 16-year-old girl being interviewed by a Phoenix police detective in 1996. In the video, the teen – later identified as Amanda Koba, now 36 – accused Johnson, then 29, of touching her inappropriately in his Phoenix home.

The Bee reported in 2008 that Johnson and the girl signed a draft confidential settlement in 1997 worth $230,000. No criminal charges were filed in the case and Johnson has repeatedly denied the allegations.

After the video’s release, ESPN delayed the national premiere of “Down in the Valley,” a documentary the sports network produced that highlights the city’s successful attempt to prevent the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle in 2013. Johnson, who led that effort, is featured prominently in the film.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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