San Leandro city manager on leave amid misconduct probe
SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California city manager was placed on paid administrative leave after the leader of a nonprofit group filed a complaint saying he tried to pressure her into a sexual relationship in exchange for public funds.
The San Leandro City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place Chris Zapata on paid leave while an independent investigator probes the complaint by Rose Padilla Johnson that Zapata denies.
Padilla Johnson is the CEO of Davis Street Family Resource Center, which helps low-income families in San Leandro access health services, childcare and other services.
Padilla Johnson said in a statement the harassment started when Zapata first became city manager in 2012. She said that rather than meeting at City Hall, Zapata would insist they met in her car and sometimes would play sexually suggestive music or give her CDs with suggestive lyrics.
Between 2012 and 2016, Johnson said he forced her to meet in her car to make requests for city funds and that during the car meetings Zapata would discuss business, but also his failed marriage and the possibility of having a romantic relationship with her.
In 2016, Johnson asked for an extension on a $1.5 million loan the city gave the non-profit. She said that in the only meeting held in his car, Zapata told her she had “the key” to get the extension. After she refused his advances, he demanded immediate repayment on the loan and started defaming her, she said.
“I simply wanted to get funding for Davis Street so that we could do good deeds, but he wouldn’t stop and his behavior became more aggravated and his name calling and defamation of wouldn’t cease,” she said.
Zapata denied any wrongdoing in a 23-page letter he emailed last week to the nonprofit’s board of directors. In the letter, Zapata said Padilla Johnson is retaliating because of his opposition to issuing a medical marijuana dispensary permit to the Davis Street Wellness Center, which is affiliated with the non-profit Johnson Padilla directs.
“I am highly suspicious of the timing of this new allegation: The white hot movement sweeping the world involving men sexually harassing women, the upcoming San Leandro mayor and city council elections and the many stories about the billions of dollars involved in the cannabis movement are three reasons,” Zapata wrote in his Jan. 16 email to Davis Street Family Resource Center directors, the East Bay Times reported.
Zapata did not immediately respond to an emailed request sent Wednesday seeking comment.