Tuesday, January 23, 2018

San Leandro City Council places city manager on paid administrative leave

San Leandro City Manager 
Chris Zapata
San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday night pending the results of an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct by a local non-profit leader.

The San Leandro City Council, voted 6-0, to put Zapata on paid leave. Assistant City Manager Jeff Kay becomes interim city manager, the council announced following the nearly two-hour closed session meeting.

In a statement issued by San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter shortly after Tuesday's vote, she acknowledged an investigation into the claims against Zapata is underway and "the City Council was not aware that the City Manager intended to publicly address the allegations in detail," a reference to a 23-page memorandum Zapata released to the public on Jan. 16 to rebut the claims against him.

"The council determined today that it is best for all parties involved that the City Manager remain on leave until the independent investigation is concluded," Cutter added.

"The City of San Leandro does not tolerate nor condone harassment of any type. It also believes in due process. The City Manager will remain on leave until the City Council has had the opportunity to review the findings from the independent investigator," said Cutter.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, Johnson said the council's action should have taken place after she filed a complaint with the city on Dec. 8. “The city has created additional legal liabilities for itself by allowing him to remain and especially after his twenty-three page rambling letter that made additional false and misleading statements,” said Johnson. “It is wrong, it is unacceptable, and it is unconscionable to use a public office."

Prior to the council's closed session meeting, Councilmember Deborah Cox told the public in attendance that Tuesday night's discussion would not touch on the matters alleged by Davis Street Family Resource Center CEO Rose Padilla Johnson, including claims Zapata engaged in a pattern of sexually-tinged banter, and insisted that meetings on the subject of the city and the Davis Street Family Resource Center be held privately in cars.

This was not entirely the case. San Leandro City Attorney Richard Pio Roda acknowledged the council's decision was based on the claims currently being investigated, but also, the events surrounding the dissemination by Zapata of his lengthy letter last week.

Tuesday's action, in addition, to a dizzying last seven days in San Leandro politics, is a significant turn of events for the city and Zapata. By most accounts, Zapata has presided over a period of substantial growth and continuity in San Leandro. Zapata is also viewed positively by those employed at City Hall. But the allegations aired by Johnson have also percolated as rumors around the city for months.

Exactly how members of the San Leandro community, in general, are reacting to this burgeoning political scandal remains unclear. A representative from the influential Alameda Labor Council reiterated a letter sent earlier in the day calling for Zapata to resign. Meanwhile, two former San Leandro councilmembers, Jim Prola and Diana Souza, spoke strongly in favor of retaining Zapata, as did Diana Prola, a San Leandro school board member.

But it was Jim Prola's comments which were the most surprising. Termed out in 2016, Prola was one of the council's biggest supporters of Johnson and the Davis Street non-profit. Prola also led the push for the council to choose the Davis Street Wellness Center medical cannabis dispensary as the city's second permit holder. (The Resource Center and Wellness Center are separate entities, but share Johnson among their board members).

Prola said Zapata is "being treated unfairly" by Johnson and believes the city's investigation should come to a conclusion before the council takes any definitive action. Prola also shot down a key accusation made by Johnson that Zapata told her "you hold the keys," a phrase she took as a proposition for trading an intimate relationship for an extension of a $1.5 million loan obligation from the non-profit to the city. Prola said Tuesday that he recalls, as a councilmember, Zapata using the same phrase to him, but in reference to the Davis Street Family Resource Center's repayment of the loan to move the process forward.

Souza, who was termed out and last served on the council 2014, suggested Johnson was untrustworthy and described being the victim herself of a "Rose Johnson lie." When asked later about the statement, Souza said Johnson made a series of inaccurate statements about her during the time the Davis Street Wellness Center was seeking a medical cannabis dispensary in San Leandro, including an assertion that Souza was employed by a competing dispensary applicant.


  1. Glad jim Prola recalls "you hold the Keys" phrase.

  2. By MW:

    A few decades ago a common analysis, and that was even regularly used by prominent politicians of both political parties, was that when a high ranking Republican got into trouble it was usually over money, and when a high ranking Democrat got into trouble it was usually over sex.

    However I am extremely proud of our modern day Bay area politicians, since they are not narrow and limited specialists, and not sort of similar to Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart, and who every year was a threat to lead the league in homeruns and/or RBI's, but probably the worst defensive player of at least the last seventy years; or Roy Oyler, and who was a fairly good defensive player, but almost as worthless with the bat as Stuart was with the glove.

    Since, and on the other hand, our modern day Bay area politicians are extremely versatile, and in fact true Renaissance men. In other words our modern day Bay area politicians can smoothly and seamlessly, or maybe we should say steamily, mix and combine sex, money, bribery, and illegal backroom fixes with skills, smoothness, and finesse surpassing those of the greatest playwright or very finest master chef.

    So when they ask for a big pay raise, give it to them, since they are the very very very best at what they do.

    1. MW how can you defame Dick Stuart. As a lifelong Pirates fan, who also cherishes the only man to lose a Perfect Game, Harvey Haddix, it is wrong to think of them in the same gasp as our Bay Area politicians, especially those in San Leandro. More baseball less about our own losers.

  3. Jim Prola and his wife have not heard about the me too movement or just dont care about sexual harassment

    1. Allegations do not equal guilt. Maybe they believe in waiting for the investigation to conclude before prejudging.

  4. Metoo movement or not, evidence is required for all cases.

  5. By MW:

    I was born and raised in a major city in the Northeast. Going back to at least the 1950's, that particular city has been at least almost totally run by the Democratic Party, and just like at least most major cities with heavy DP majorities, has had an extremely corrupt local government.

    But I had a cousin who was born and raised in Baltimore, very likely the very most corrupt place of all among major Northeast cities. And my cousin was extremely fond of describing Baltimore's politicians as "THE BEST THAT MONEY CAN BUY."

    (To illustrate just a few of the wonderful things the Baltimore environment has contributed to honesty and integrity in politics, Baltimore gave us both Spiro Agnew and Nancy Pelosi. And in fact Pelosi's maiden name is D'Allessandro. The name "Nancy D'Allessandro Pelosi" contains all of the letters necessary to spell the word "CESSPOOL," and which I think of every time Nancy makes a public statement regarding her make believe interest in "draining the swamp." In fact I believe Nate Miley also has roots in Baltimore.)

    And I later lived for a few years in a major Midwestern city that decades earlier had been closely associated with Al Capone, and which still, and in spite of its PR, had a local government with Al Capone style "ethics." The residents of that city constantly described the local politicians as "THE BEST THAT MONEY CAN BUY."

    However even the very sleaziest of the politicians in the very worst cesspools of Northeastern or Midwestern corruption were choir boys compared to the typical Bay area politician.

    In other words, they were just the very lowest of Little Leaguers when compared to the very top major leaguers of sleaze and corruption that dominate Bay area politics.

  6. What is Souza talking about? Her son works for Blum and Blum listed her as a paid consultant when they applied for a dispensary in San Leandro.

    1. Listed as Blüm SL Advisory Board not consultant...check your facts... https://sanleandro.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2856010&GUID=7A053F77-B86F-4265-B56B-DFD441B45AA9

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