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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rukidding

I think that the city should sue the 2 for the balance of the city’s costs for damages inflicted.


mb business owner

slo city council, shame on you for your continued spinelessness. and the fact that irons and deitrick were involved at all seems pretty humorous, since they all wash each others back, hire each others less than qualified members and whatnot. nice job citizens of slo on who you have hired to run your city – you rival the mess we have in morro bay!


mb business owner

that would be “less than qualified FAMILY members”


mary margaret

They could, and should, have both been fired and made to pay the $70,000 for the Santa Ana law firm’s investigation. What the Council chose to do gives the message to voters that the Mayor and Council are representing staff and are incompetent. Remember this when the next election rolls around.


Ricky2

They ARE representing staff. There’s no daylight between this incredibly inexperienced and naive council — the worst we’ve ever had — and staff — the worst we’ve ever had. This council thinks staff know all, and are in charge, and the council’s just there to rubber stamp whatever nonsense staff throws their way. Staff’s in charge. The “Student Council” egos do their bidding.


just the facts

The Progressives are coming! The Progressives are coming! Oh…forgot the progressive socialists are in charge of the city of San Luis Obispo. Is everybody still happy?


1965buick

Would a decent person give back their bonus since they were found to be at fault? Or just subtract it from the fine?

Just asking.


Ricky2

Would a decent person making that kind of money even ask for or accept a “bonus” and a car allowance? Why are the rich made richer this way?


tidepool

Why can’t the city spend $70,000 to investigate crime of negligence against the mentally ill committed by 6 figure earners Dr Daisy Allano and Judy Vick???


SLOBIRD

These are COUNTY dufus’, they are all over in government regardless of what agency they work for. Incompetence is not limited to City of San Luis Obispo, just look at the County and 6 other cities and then we have the boards and district. There must be a book written out there that says if you are looking for quick power and money here is how to get, get appointed or hired by a board. Thank the lawd we have some legitimate business people that still volunteer their time and energy for the right reason and have to endure these inapt bozo’s!


Ricky2

Lapse of judgment? Give me a break. If you’re stupid enough to do this sort of stuff, you aren’t having any “lapse of judgment,” you don’t have any judgment to start with.


As for Lichtig’s exemplary service, only a mayor without a clue can say such nonsense. Poor Heidi, in way over her head and she doesn’t even know it. It’s time Lichtig left town.


Just more BS from city hall.


r0y

Only if one assumes the eight grand goes back to the tax payers. I cannot recall when government gave anything back to those who pay.


I just see two WAY over-compensated people getting their hands slapped, as they continue on raping the tax paying public.


TacomaRose

So lets get this straight … City spends $70,000 of our tax dollars to conduct an investigation which results in the fining of two administrators for a total of $8,101.00. So that leaves tax payer on hook for over 60,000 $$$$. The chamber of commerce should pony up the rest of the $$$$ to reimburse the taxpayer.


What a crock of BS !!!!


… and Heidi Harmon has the audacity to point to Lichtig’s “exemplary record of conduct and past performance” SERIOUSLY? The city and it’s finances are a mess.


Harmon and the rest of the council who approved this action are best described as a cast of ClOWNS in a broken down clown car.


Mitch C

Don’t forget about the $2,000 bonus they each received. The fine mets to a $659 fine for the city manager and $3,500 for the fire chief.