Lichtig, Olson fined over ‘sexist’ firefighters video

April 11, 2017

San Luis Obispo City Manager Katie Lichtig and Fire Chief Garret Olson have both received fines for their participation in a video that allegedly sexually objectified firefighters.

Lichtig received a $2,659 fine and Olson was fined $5,442. Lichtig’s fine is the equivalent of a three-day suspension, and Olson’s fine amounts to eight days of lost pay.

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 naming Lichtig and Olson and alleging 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 Tuesday, following the completion of an independent investigation, the San Luis Obispo City Council convened for hours to discuss disciplining Lichtig and Olson. The council was responsible for handling the discipline, if warranted, for Lichtig, while Public Works Director Daryl Grigsby assumed the role of ruling on Olson’s actions.

The council and Grigsby concluded that Lichtig and Olson violated the city’s anti-discrimination and unlawful harassment policy. City policy prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sex.

Likewise, Lichtig and Olson were found to have violated a policy prohibiting conduct unbecoming of city officials.

Garret Olson

In addition to receiving fines, Lichtig and Olson also received written reprimands. Additionally, Olson must work with the city human resources department to develop and implement a plan to move the fire department forward in a productive manner.

Following the council hearing Tuesday, Mayor Heidi Harmon released a statement saying, in disciplining its top executive, the council took into account Lichtig’s “exemplary record of conduct and past performance as city manager.”

“I speak on behalf of the entire council when I say this was a wholly uncharacteristic lapse in judgement by Katie,” Harmon wrote. “We have a strong commitment to civility and inclusivity in our organization and community that led us to conclude disciplinary action was merited.”

Grigsby released a similar statement, saying he considered Olson’s positive record as fire chief and that participating in the video constituted a lapse in judgment.

“I have valued the talents Chief Olson has brought to the organization and community for years and have total confidence in his leadership abilities,” Grigsby said.

After the council announced its decisions, Lichtig issued a statement of her own.

“I understand why the council has made its decision. I am held to a higher standard than other employees due to my role in our organization and accept this discipline. I apologized to the council and assured them I have learned many important lessons from the experience. I make this same apology and acknowledgement to my fellow city employees and the community.

“Those who know me understand that I hold myself to a very high standard and my participation in the chamber dinner video did not meet that mark. Unintentionally I made a number of mistakes in this incident — I didn’t recognize the impact that the video would have on others, I didn’t connect the dots to our city polices, 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 and I regret the fact that I did not. It is safe to say that I am disappointed in myself and I promise that something like this will never happen again.”

The council and Grigsby opted to fine Lichtig and Olson after receiving advice from the Santa Ana law firm Burke, Williams & Sorenson. The Santa Ana firm’s investigator, Katy Suttrop, traveled to San Luis Obispo to conduct an investigation into the allegations against Lichtig and Olson. The city spent $70,000 on the private investigation, $20,000 more than the maximum price tag set by the initial contract with the law firm.


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sweethome

Copperhead You got that right!


marc

The $70,000 investigative report that we the taxpayers paid for should be made public. These two are not rank and file employees deserving of privacy.


kayaknut

Katie Lichtig is laughing about this all the way to the bank to deposit her over $1,000 a day in salary and benefits.


copperhead

At first glance of the headline, I thought it said “fired”, but then I realized you can’t fire government pukes. They were fined the amount of their recent bonuses and will figure out within an hour how to steal the rest of the fine from the taxpayer.


By the way, who cares about the stupid video. The obscene part is the ways these government pukes steal from us on a daily basis. If the taxpayer only knew.


SamLouis

SLO City Council: Grow a pair!


kayaknut

Not going to happen, Harmon is apparently also scared of Lichtig.


mullyman

$600 + and $800 + paid to these people a day is unbelievable. No one in this town is worth that much. No wonder the town just like the state will be in debt forever. Also I can’t figure out why a lot of my posts are delayed in posting.


Pelican1

It doesn’t matter how much they were fined…WE. the taxpayers will ultimately pay. It’s shameful, and it’s reality.