|More on Cromartie Complaint
June 9, 2005
Following is a story from today’s West County Times. The substance of my complaints about Cromartie were often scoffed at, even by my City Council colleagues, who, found my concerns suspect and, largely due to Cromartie’s successful self-promotion, perceived him as an effective manager who had reformed a previously lackadaisical Planning department into a high tech lean mean planning machine. However, it has now been revealed that Cromartie’s own employees “…signed a letter to former City Manager Isiah Turner a year into Cromartie's stewardship, saying he was frequently absent, did not stay in contact and would not return telephone calls.”
Richmond drops query into race discrimination charges
A special investigator has dumped a probe into allegations that a Richmond councilman created a hostile work environment for black male executives.
Former Planning Director Barry Cromartie did not provide witnesses, documents or testimony to back up his March complaint, the investigator reported this week.
Cromartie claimed Councilman Tom Butt abused and slandered selected employees and violated conflict of interest laws.
Attorney Peter Edrington, hired by the city to pursue the charges, would say only that the matter is "no longer being actively investigated."
But City Manager Bill Lindsay said Edrington, with Lindsay's approval, abandoned the inquiry June 3 after numerous attempts to reach Cromartie failed.
"(Cromartie) didn't respond to repeated requests for an interview, and we couldn't let it linger on forever," Lindsay said. "(Edrington) finally sent a letter saying, 'Do it by this date, or we'll close the investigation.'"
Lindsay launched the probe in March, saying federal law required him to do so once claims of race- or gender-based mistreatment were made.
The investigation continued, even though six weeks later, Cromartie accepted the job of planning chief in American Canyon, a town of 13,000 on the southern edge of Napa County.
The Times also was unable to reach Cromartie for comment.
Edrington had planned to interview Cromartie and Butt separately, then seek corroborating documents and witnesses from each.
"He told me Barry not only never met with him, he wouldn't even return his phone calls," Butt said.
The men tangled frequently during Cromartie's tenure.
In a March 3 memo to Lindsay, Cromartie discusses "a disturbing yet consistent pattern (of) misrepresenting facts, slandering, and otherwise making statements which are abusive and/or libelous in the record.
"As part of this deliberate pattern, Mr. Butt has consistently negatively labeled, slandered, and characterized some staff and other 'protected' classes or otherwise 'painted' staff in the most negative light possible," the memo says.
Butt has subjected previous planning directors to the same treatment, Cromartie writes.
Butt insisted he was "an equal opportunity critic," and noted that while he has excoriated former planning directors for incompetence, none were black males.
Cromartie also said Butt violated conflict-of-interest laws by voting on a lease after suggesting the business owner contribute to the Rosie the Riveter World War II Homefront National Historic Park. In a seven-page opinion, the state Attorney General's Office rejected the claim, saying Butt "has no financial interest or business that might conflict with, or be enhanced by, the proposed lease."
The ruling "deflated one of Mr. Cromartie's principle charges, that of conflict of interest," Butt said.
Cromartie pointed to Butt's alleged "false accusations related to city staff's use of credit cards" as part of a "larger and deliberate pattern of animus, disrespect, slander," it says. A subsequent investigation by interim City Manager Phil Batchelor reported widespread abuse of credit cards.
In February, Batchelor confiscated all 14 private credit cards issued to city executives and some of the more restricted city cards.
Cromartie fought a city before, filing a grievance against Emeryville when he worked there. He charged the city with racial discrimination and won his job back after a layoff and was awarded $125,000 in compensatory damages in 1997.
Planning department employees signed a letter to former City Manager Isiah Turner a year into Cromartie's stewardship, saying he was frequently absent, did not stay in contact and would not return telephone calls.
Cromartie, although at odds with Butt, continued to enjoy the support of the City Council.
Reach Rebecca Rosen Lum at 510-262-2713 or email@example.com.