Alameda Labor Council asked to meet with investigator in San Leandro city manager probe

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL
The Alameda Labor Council, one of the most powerful political bodies in the East Bay, made an effort to speak with the independent investigator tapped by the city of San Leandro to look into the sexual misconduct allegations made against San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata.

Alameda Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Josie Camacho wrote a letter to city officials Jan. 29 to claim the City Council’s notice last month of a special closed session focused on Zapata’s employment was hastily made and without sufficient notice to her members.

Camacho later asked city officials to set up a meeting between the labor group and Attorney Karen Kramer, the Danville lawyer investigating claims by San Leandro Family Resource Center CEO Rose Padilla Johnson that Zapata sought a sexual relationship with her in exchange for a $1.5 million city-backed loan. Zapata has denied the allegations.

Although the issue does not involve union members on the surface, Camacho wrote, “Our concern goes beyond one case. We want what women who work for you deserve….a workplace free from sexual harassment and a process that guarantees they will be heard and protected…not intimidated or silenced action in closed session.”

It is unclear whether the labor unions have any additional claims against Zapata.

Liz Ortega-Toro, political director for the Alameda Labor Council said the organization was merely seeking information that the city had not provided, such as, the scope of the investigation and the duration.

The city’s two-page response, though, only touched lightly on the labor council’s request to meet with the third-party investigator, stating a desire to maintain its independent from the matter. “As a labor leader, you no doubt are an advocate for due process in employee matters. We should be cautious to judge before the facts are known, and we are committed to maintaining the integrity of the independent investigation,” according to the letter signed by the entire San Leandro City Council.

Instead, the response includes a detailed timeline regarding the $1.5 million loan given by the city to the Davis Street Family Resource Center starting in early 2014. The city also refuted claims within a previous letter by Camacho that Zapata issued the loan “to a woman he barely knew” and “the casual manner” in which the council approved it.

In the background, the Teamsters have been lobbying the city for months to resolve a long-standing concerns over the future of the medical cannabis dispensary, which has ties to Johnson and the Davis Street Family Resource Center. The Teamsters have a labor agreement with the Davis Street Wellness Center to represent its future employees. In recent years, with the blossoming of the cannabis industry in the state, unions like the Teamsters have made a strong push to unionize these nascent operations.

Over the past year, Zapata has been viewed by supporters of the proposed medical cannabis dispensary as an impediment for gaining the requisite final approvals before opening its doors to business. The primary roadblock being an insistence by the city for the Davis Street Family Resource Center to repay the remaining $300,000 of a federal loan it received to purchase the non-profit’s building on Teagarden Street. The proposed dispensary is slated to open at the same property. The city fears the federal government’s prohibition on cannabis puts the city at legal risk, therefore, it ordered the non-profit to pay off the outstanding loan, which it did before a Jan. 31 deadline.

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