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New Times / News

The following article was posted on April 26th, 2017, in the New Times - Volume 31, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 31, Issue 38

SLO city manager, fire chief fined for offensive video

By PETER JOHNSON

SLO City Council fined City Manager Katie Lichtig $2,659 and Fire Department Chief Garret Olson $5,442 for their roles in producing a spoof video that sexualized male firefighters and aired at the Jan. 21 SLO Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.

An outside investigation into the video concluded that Lichtig and Olson violated the city’s anti-discrimination and harassment policy and the code of ethics outlining appropriate behavior for city officials.

In an April 10 statement, SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon called Lichtig’s and Olson’s mistakes “unintentional,” but said, “we have a strong commitment to civility and inclusivity in our organization that led us to conclude disciplinary action was merited.”

Lichtig’s fine amounts to three days’ pay while Olson’s amounts an eight days’ pay. Lichtig earns a $230,464 salary and Olson, $176,852. City Manager Katie Lichtig and Fire Chief Garret Olson both received one-time $2,000 bonuses on April 4 along with 91 other management employees. *

The video, first publicized by New Times on Feb. 9, was filmed via a body cam on Olson as he walked through the SLO Chamber of Commerce office. Several Chamber employees ask him if “hot,” “shirtless” firefighters will be attending the annual dinner. Later, Lichtig appears alongside three other women wearing T-shirts of naked male torsos while rapping.

After receiving five formal complaints about the video, the city retained Santa Ana-based attorney Katy Suttorp of Burke, Williams & Soresen to investigate the allegations, at a cost of roughly $70,000.

On April 10, Lichtig apologized to the community in a statement, saying she “understood” the council’s action.

“Unintentionally, I made a number of mistakes in this incident,” Lichtig said. “I didn’t recognize the impact that the video would have on others, I didn’t connect the dots to our city policies, I didn’t advise the fire chief well, and simply put, I didn’t put a stop to it. I should have done all four.”

The video drew harsh criticism from SLO’s firefighters union, Local 3523, whose members called it “highly offensive” and “demeaning.”

Olson offered an apology to New Times in February and said the video was meant to be “good-natured and self-deprecating.”

“For some, I missed that mark and I’m truly sorry,” he said.

The city’s press release states that Olson must “work with Human Resources to develop and implement a plan to move the fire department forward productively.”

* Correction: Both Lichtig and Olson were recipients of $2,000 bonuses, not just Lichtig as originally stated.