By Robert Haugh
A really interesting thing happened at the end of last Tuesday’s Council meeting after Dominic Caserta resigned and a large crowd left the room — including me. Planning Commission Chair Yuki Ikezi spoke during the open public comment time. She brought up a 2015 sexual harassment claim she filed with the City.
Ikezi has been a commissioner for six years. She says she has always given and received respect from her peers on the Commission. Except for one Commissioner. Ikezi says a Commissioner touched her, pinched her and was always “touchy-feely” and “hands-on.” Wow. Watch Ikezi’s remarks here.
According to multiple sources, the allegations are about current Santa Clara Rotary Club President Joe Sweeney. We tried to contact Sweeney several times by phone, text, and email for the last four days. But he would not respond, even though he read the text.
(Note: Interesting coincidence that the Rotary’s President-elect is John Mlnarik, Caserta’s attorney for the sexual harassment complaints).
Ikezi alleges that after filing a formal complaint in 2015, the City did not act. She testified that the City Attorney said the best way to diffuse the situation was confronting the harasser directly. Wow. Really? She claims the City Attorney discouraged her from pursuing anything further. He allegedly told her anything further would “destroy your relationship with a fellow Commissioner.”
The City attorney at the time was Ren Nosky. He acknowledged via email on Friday that a complaint was filed, but would not comment on any details. “These complaints are treated confidentially. I can confirm that a complaint was made. My office engaged in fact finding as to the allegations. Corrective actions were taken and, to my knowledge, the alleged conduct did not occur again,” Nosky stated.
Nosky resigned as City Attorney in January 2017 — just days before the City Council was suppose to finish his performance review. He joined the Berliner Cohen law firm. But it looks like he’s already left the firm to practice on his own.
“I was very disappointed with the way it was handled,” said Ikezi.
Ikezi says she suggested City staff develop an enhanced program for sexual harassment training and complaints, but nothing happened. “This type of harassment is not tolerated in the private sector,” added Ikezi.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor, City Manager Deanna Santana and City Attorney Brian Doyle were shocked by Ikezi’s remarks. They all responded strongly, saying they take the matter seriously. Stay tuned. We expect more on this story.
We applaud Ikezi for her courage in bringing this issue forward so the City can do more.