Monday, November 30, 2015

The Zinkin Harassment Chronicles

Council Member Mike Zinkin has been informed by Mayor Hiremath, on behalf of the town council, that Zinkin should apologize to certain town employees for good-natured remarks (video below) that he made at the October 21 Oro Valley Town Council meeting. Zinkin's remarks followed a joke that Council Member Hornat had made about Zinkin's hair getting gray. Mayor Hiremath and others laughed at the Zinkin the joke. Apparently, however, one town employee took offense.  He decided to make a big deal out of nothing and the Town Manager, an individual who is frequently at odds with Council Member Zinkin, decided to pursue it with vigor.

We think this is, once again, a trumped-up irrelevancy to try to demean the character of Council Member Zinkin.

Here's what Council Member Zinkin thinks of this
The Harassment Chronicles
At the Council meeting on November 18, there was an agenda item regarding a personnel action against me. I chose to have this item discussed in a public session in order for everyone to see the kind of atmosphere my wife and I have had to endure over the past 3 years. By requesting that the meeting be conducted in public, the Town Legal Services Director and the Human Resoures Director (both of whom report directly to the Town Manager, Greg Caton) had to revise an 18-page Attorney Protected document into a 2-page non protected document so there could be a public discussion.

The document charges me with violating Town Policy 21. This is the town policy regarding sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. The complaint was issued by Bayer Vella, the Planning and Zoning Administrator, and referenced statements I made, in public, from the dais, during the October 21 Council meeting. (Watch remarks)

My remark does not come even close to being offensive
The legal test for "offensive" remarks is: Would a reasonable person would be offended by the remark? The Town found that this was not the case. Remarks like: "Bayer is still trying to grow a beard," "Elisa has new people in her family," and "...I think that put you in labor at one point, but, uh, it worked" should nor offend a reasonable person.

United States labor law states: "A hostile work environment exists when one's behavior within a workplace creates an environment that is difficult for another person to work in."  The United States Supreme Court in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services states that "Title VII (Civil Right Act 1964) is 'not a general civility code'. Thus, federal law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious."

My remark does not come even close to causing a hostile work environment
To create a hostile work environment "the conduct must create a work environment that would be limiting, hostile, or offensive to a reasonable person. The behavior or communication must be pervasive, lasting over a long period of time, and not limited to an off-color remark or two that a co-worker found offensive".

There is another twist to this saga called "Legislative Immunity". From Congress all the way down to the Municipal level, elected officials (including Council members) have absolute legislative immunity from civil liability from comments made from the dais. This is in both the Federal and State Constitution.

Therefore, I did not sexually harass anyone, nor did I create a hostile work environment.
Town Policy 21 does apply to elected officials. However, the discipline clause in this policy only covers employees. It does not apply to elected officials.

What does apply is Town Policy 2. This policy restricts directing work and conversations with employees without Town Manager permission. It applies to all seven of Oro Valley's elected officials.

This policy was discussed at the council meeting after I had left. Any discussion of this policy was never broached during the complaint. This policy was never mentioned in either the protected or the unprotected document issued by legal and human resources.

I am being singled out because I do my job
So, why am I being singled out?  I think that the answer is apparent. I do my job. I research issues. I apply critical thinking. I ask compelling questions. I have been and will continue to monitor and report on the dramatic losses the town is compiling due to the fiscally irresponsible, unsound, outrageous investment in golf. If what I do embarrasses the administration, then so be it.

It is a fact that we are 16.7% through the fiscal year and we already have 52% of the total budgeted losses on golf. I have identified an outfit called "Integrity Golf" that is in the business of leasing golf courses. During my discussion with them, they told me that they will lease the golf, tennis, and restaurant and assume everything financially. I have given this information to Mr. Caton and am anxiously awaiting his response.

Protracted attacks on my integrity from the Majority-4 and Town Manager Caton will not deter me. For the remainder of my term, I will continue to represent the needs of the citizens. 
Unfortunately, to do this, it appears that I will have to endure continued character assassinations and attempts to discredit my integrity. My wife is behind me, and I hope, there are others who will also have my back.

Mike Zinkin
Oro Valley Council Person
For an additional perspective:

No comments: