SLO hires firm to investigate Lichtig, Olson and ‘sexist’ video
February 24, 2017
The city of San Luis Obispo will pay a Santa Ana law firm up to $50,000 to investigate personnel complaints against City Manager Katie Lichtig and Fire Chief Garret Olson pertaining to a video that allegedly sexually objectified firefighters.
Intended as a spoof to promote the SLO Chamber of Commerce, the video showed female chamber employees asking Olson about full monty calendars and hot, shirtless firefighters. The video was shown at the annual SLO Chamber of Commerce dinner on Jan. 20.
After the video spread, the city received two personnel complaints which named Lichtig and Olson and alleged 11 violations of city workplace policies. Additionally, the San Luis Obispo firefighters’ union issued a public request for the city to mount an investigation into the sexual objectification of firefighters by city officials.
On Feb. 10, the city entered an agreement with the law firm Burke, Williams & Sorenson to conduct an investigation into the case. The contract sets a maximum price tag of $50,000, but the agreement states the city can only spend more than $15,000 on the investigation if Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson gives approval.
The contract only tasks Santa Ana law firm with fact finding and giving the city legal advice. The law firm is not responsible for determining whether any laws or statutes were violated.
It is up to City Attorney Christine Dietrick — with the help of the city council and Human Resources Director Monica Irons — to determine if any disciplinary action against Lichtig and Olson is warranted. Following the completion of the investigation, Dietrick’s office will take into consideration state and local workplace policies in deciding whether disciplinary action is needed.
In addition to receiving personnel complaints, the city also received a letter threatening a lawsuit over the city’s handling of the investigation. The letter, which arrived on Feb. 11 and was addressed to Irons, alleged the city issued a gag order to stop individuals involved in the case from talking about it.
The letter also objected to Irons making initial inquires about the complaint before the city hired an independent investigator. City officials have not revealed who authored the letter.
Dietrick said the letter mischaracterized the city’s attempt to warn people not interfere in the investigation by calling it a gag order. Dietrick also said Irons was following best practices by asking preliminary questions.
Katy Suttrop, the investigator for Burke, Williams & Sorenson, began making inquiries in the case on Feb. 16 and 17. Suttrop has been interviewing city employees and witnesses, and she returned to San Luis Obispo on Thursday to continue her investigation.
Burke, Williams & Sorenson has no deadline for completing its investigation.
In a separate matter, CalCoastNews reported earlier this week that several racy photos surfaced showing Olson engaged in behavior that critics characterize as sexually suggestive.
One of the photos shows Olson at a Halloween party sandwiched between a woman in a bra, a woman in a maid costume and a man in underwear and a woman’s robe. Olson’s hand was positioned over then-Cal Fire Captain Mark Cameron’s genitalia.