An outside law firm hired by the city of Sacramento has completed its investigation into a sexual harassment claim made last year against City Councilman Allen Warren, but city officials are refusing to release documents related to the investigation or discuss its findings.
In response to a Sacramento Bee request for records detailing the findings of the investigation, City Attorney James Sanchez’s office said the documents were exempt from the California Public Records Act based on four reasons, including that the public interest is better served by not disclosing the record.
Sanchez confirmed in a text message that the city’s third-party law firm – Van Dermyden Maddux – had finished its investigation but said he could not discuss the results. The investigation’s findings were sent to the city on Dec. 29.
Delia Chacon, a former Warren city aide, filed a claim with the city of Sacramento on July 31, alleging that Warren created an atmosphere of “quid pro quo sexual harassment” by threatening to fire her if she ended their sexual relationship. The claim alleged Warren used his supervisory role over Chacon to “repeatedly coerce her into submission to his repeated sexual requests,” including “meeting him for sex at her home during ordinary work hours, and accompanying him on sexual escapades to Atlanta, Jamaica, Reno and Oroville.”
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Chacon, 45, said in her claim she was fired from the city last year, but the circumstances of her dismissal remain unclear. She could not be reached for comment Monday and her attorney has not returned multiple requests for comment.
Warren has denied the allegations. He said Monday he had not seen a report related to the investigation. He added he had “no comment other than I have fully cooperated with (the) investigation.”
In a letter to The Bee, Sanchez’s office cited four reasons for withholding the results of the investigation by Van Dermyden Maddux. Another third-party law firm, Angelo, Kilday & Kilduff, consulted in the investigation.
The letter from the city attorney said the records are exempt from public disclosure because they were “generated in anticipation of litigation”; that the documents are personnel records; that they are protected by attorney-client privilege; and that the public interest is better served by keeping the records private.
Sanchez said in a text message that he was not aware of any financial settlement that has been made related to Chacon’s claim. If such a settlement were paid with taxpayer dollars, it would be public information. Chacon has not filed a lawsuit against Warren and did not seek monetary damages in the claim she filed with the city.
Warren’s first term on the City Council representing North Sacramento ends this year. He has not said whether he intends to run for re-election in June. Candidates have until March 11 to determine whether they will run for Warren’s seat.
The claim against Warren was made three months after a former aide to City Manager John Shirey accused Mayor Kevin Johnson of sexual harassment. In that case, the city attorney and outside attorney Carolee Kilduff said in a statement that an investigation into the claim against Johnson determined the allegations were unsubstantiated. Johnson also denied the claim.
Following the claim against Warren, Councilman Steve Hansen asked the city auditor to examine the city’s sexual harassment policies. The examination found the policy had not been updated in years and that more than 130 city supervisors who should have taken the training had not done so.
Johnson also called for every member of the City Council to take the training, despite a legal opinion by the City Attorney’s Office that a state law requiring supervisors to take the training does not apply to elected officials. Johnson and every member of the City Council have taken the training.
Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech and government transparency, said written reports transmitted from Van Dermyden Maddux to the city regarding the Warren investigation would be covered by attorney-client privilege. He said the city has “pretty strong reasons to protect” certain elements of the investigation, including the identity of witnesses interviewed during the inquiry.
However, he said the city could still discuss elements of the investigation with the public.
“There may be things that the city is able to tell the public without necessarily compromising or revealing everything because some things may truly be sensitive,” he said.
He added that the city should also consider the public’s right to know the outcome of a case involving an elected official.
“When you’re dealing with public officials, those who are politically accountable and elected, the public interest in knowing something about allegations against them of malfeasance is acute,” he said.
Chacon’s claim alleged that Warren took her to a cabin he owned in the woods near Oroville, stopping on the way to purchase wine and condoms. Once they arrived at the cabin, “Warren displayed shotguns” and “proceeded to use the shotguns for target practice while Ms. Chacon watched fearfully,” according to the claim.
Warren laughed when Chacon told her the guns scared her, according to the claim.
The claim alleged that Chacon “suffered greatly from (Warren’s) sexual harassment,” including “anxiety, depression and PTSD.” The claim said Chacon is a single mother “who could not afford to be unemployed.”
Chacon told Warren in May she “was no longer going to submit to (Warren’s) sexual advances,” according to the claim. Warren threatened to fire Chacon and, a few weeks later, told her “he would not terminate her if she would resume submitting to his sexual advances,” the claim states.
“Ms. Chacon refused these further sexual advances,” according to the claim.
The claim also alleged that Warren requested that Chacon conduct work for his private development firm, New Faze, on city time.