LATHROP — Just months after the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury opted not to act against Lathrop Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos for a series of alleged “inappropriate” run-ins with a city employee, the flamboyant elected official finds himself in hot water once again.
Tonight the Lathrop City Council will vote on whether to disapprove of the Mayor’s conduct regarding yet another incident at City Hall - this time one where he allegedly made retaliatory comments to another city staffer.
According to the staff report prepared for the council members, former City Manager Cary Keaten prepared a list of employee complaints against Santos and his inappropriate comments and actions back in 2011. And the situation that eventually garnered the attention of the grand jury came in January - including an investigation launched at the behest of the Employee Risk Management Authority and conducted by Walnut Creek-based lawyer Margaret Kotzebue.
But city staffers had to find a new investigator - Jay Resendez - to investigate the validity of the complaint after it was learned that Kotzebue was otherwise engaged. According to the report, Resendez sustained the complaint made by the unnamed city employee. When he attempted to interview Santos was stonewalled. Santos refused to agree to an interview unless the investigator met his specific terms and Resendez was unwilling to do so.
The report was received by the city on Oct. 5.
Based on the concurring reports by two independent investigators, ERMA is requesting that the city adopt the resolution that disapproves of Santos’ conduct as a way to reassure employees that harassment in the workplace will not be accepted in any way - regardless of the stature of the person involved. The resolution allows the city council to disapprove of the mayor’s inappropriate comments and conduct in the workplace that is contrary to the city’s equal employment opportunity policies and practices and gives the council the power to direct Santos to cease and desist any conduct that is to the contrary.
The resolution itself spells out the ways that the council legally disapproves of Santos’ conduct.
Being that it comes just three weeks prior to the election isn’t lost on the outspoken mayor.
“It’s all a political ploy,” he said. “It’s Sonny Dhaliwal. His campaign is going south and he’s doing everything he can to bring me down. His own people won’t even vote for him and this is what he’s resorting to.”
Santos’ attorney - Bill Herrell - said that his client would have been more than happy to have cooperated with the investigation if he would have only been told what it was that he was being investigated for.
After the grand jury said that the previous referral was nothing but a political one - and that Santos stepped away from his post as mayor the night that the council agreed to do that and urged them to forward it on because he had nothing to hide - he said he saw nothing but smoke and mirrors in the charges with a mayoral candidate behind them.
“Even a murder suspect is told what it is he’s accused of doing. Why is it that Chaka isn’t afforded the same rights that are provided to a criminal,” Herrell said. “If he had only been told what it was that he allegedly had done and other identifying factors he would have been more than happy to go in there and sit down. But how can I advise somebody to walk in to an investigation blind? How does he know what he’s going to get?”
The Lathrop City Council meets the first and third Mondays of every month at Lathrop City Hall - located at 390 Towne Center Drive. Meetings are broadcasted locally to Lathrop residents on Comcast channel 97. A copy of the council agenda can be found at www.ci.lathrop.ca.us.