UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: Moments ago, the Outpost received a statement from Councilmember Watson responding to today’s release from the City of Arcata. You can read it in full below:
I believe in anti-discrimination and anti-harassment; harassment and discrimination have no place in the workplace. I am sorry the allegation against me was raised, but I have not done anything to warrant such an allegation. I have to believe that I’ll be given due process during this investigation, although nobody has told me what I am accused of having done wrong, who the potential victims are, or the identities of any witness. I fear that these allegations are motivated by my continued efforts to hold City staff accountable with timely answers to my questions on behalf of my constituents. If true, that’s disappointing. It is my sincere hope that this investigation will be concluded shortly so that we can all get back to the business of running the City.
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Original Post: In a release issued Tuesday, the City of Arcata announced that it has hired an outside investigator to look into undisclosed allegations that embattled councilmember and former mayor Brett Watson violated the city’s Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy. The release goes on to say that while the investigation is being conducted special procedures have been established to limit Watson’s access to city staff.
“Usually, the accused person will be either placed on administrative leave or, if possible, re-assigned to work duties that remove them from interacting with potential victims and witnesses,” the city’s release states. “Because Councilmember Watson cannot be placed on administrative leave, the City Council adopted special protocols through which he may interact with City staff to continue performing all of his duties as an elected official while having restricted contact with potential victims and witnesses.”
Upon receiving the release, the Outpost reached out to Watson who said he couldn’t comment on the situation at this time. Read the full announcement from the City of Arcata below:
The Arcata City Council has received a report of potential violations of the City’s Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy by Councilmember Brett Watson and has hired an outside investigator to investigate the alleged violations.
The City is committed to providing an environment for its employees that is free from discrimination or harassment, and through its Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy, has adopted zero tolerance of such conduct. This Policy rests on the fundamental precept that each employee, City Council member, Commission member, Committee member, vendor and contractor must treat others with respect, dignity, and professionalism.
In a typical matter of this type, the City protects potential victims and witnesses from potential retaliatory conduct by the person accused of discrimination or harassment by eliminating all interactions between the accused person with the potential victims and witnesses to the greatest extent possible.
Usually, the accused person will be either placed on administrative leave or, if possible, re-assigned to work duties that remove them from interacting with potential victims and witnesses. Because Councilmember Watson cannot be placed on administrative leave, the City Council adopted special protocols through which he may interact with City staff to continue performing all of his duties as an elected official while having restricted contact with potential victims and witnesses.
At this time, no finding has been made as to whether a violation of the City’s policy has occurred, and we are committed to due process throughout this investigation. Although this involves an elected official, it is a confidential personnel matter and the privacy of the potential victims and witnesses must be protected. The City is unable to disclose the nature of the potential violations, the names of the potential victims and witnesses, or the special protocol applicable to Councilmember Watson.
Investigations, by design, are conducted independently and develop based on each witness’s information; therefore, they do not have a specified timeline. The City will seek to balance the public’s interest in knowing the conduct of its elected officials against the privacy rights of the affected employees. Once the investigation is completed, the City will determine what, if any, additional information can be disclosed to the public.
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