SAN LEANDRO (CBS SF) — The chief executive of a non-profit group that helps poor and disadvantaged people gain access to health care has sent a letter to San Leandro officials alleging that City Manager Chris Zapata sexually harassed her.
Rose Padilla Johnson of the Davis Street Family Resource Center alleges that Zapata attempted to pressure her into having a sexual relationship with him in exchange for continued public funding for services for needy community members.
Attorney Jane Brunner claimed in her letter to San Leandro officials that Johnson was subjected to “a pattern of sexual harassment, political pressure and ultimately defamation” by Zapata.
Johnson and the nonprofit said in a news release that they are calling for the immediate resignation of Zapata or his firing by the San Leandro City Council “after the city manager sent a rambling, incoherent 23-page letter to the organization, the city, and local media with strange, misleading and false statements.”
“It is wrong, it is unacceptable and it is unconscionable to use a public office to attempt to pressure me or anyone else into having a relationship in exchange for public funds,” Johnson said in a statement.
Zapata and San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Johnson’s allegations.
Brunner, who served on the Oakland City Council from 1996 to 2013, said Thursday that San Leandro officials knew about Zapata’s alleged sexual harassment for a long time but didn’t start investigating him until she recently sent them a letter on Johnson’s behalf. Brunner said the city has hired an outside investigator.
Johnson, who has worked with Davis Street for 26 years, alleges that the abuse began when Zapata first became city manager in 2012.
Johnson said that rather than meeting at City Hall, Zapata suggested they meet in her car at a Fosters Freeze restaurant near her workplace to discuss grants the nonprofit sought from the city to serve the disadvantaged.
Johnson said that when they met in her car, Zapata sometimes would play sexually suggestive music or give her CDs with suggestive lyrics and she would reprimand him by saying the music or gifts were inappropriate.
Johnson alleges that during the car meetings, Zapata would discuss business but also would talk about his failed marriage and told her that if she weren’t married “I would really go for someone like you,” in addition to other inappropriate comments.
Johnson said in 2016, when she asked for an extension on a loan the nonprofit had gotten from the city, Zapata told her, “Rose, you have the key,” which she took to mean that he was requesting a romantic relationship with her.
Johnson alleged that Zapata later “made a series of onerous demands to Davis Street if the city was to grant a loan extension” and started to disparage Johnson and the nonprofit to people in San Leandro by calling her a liar, and stating that promises made by Johnson were broken or untrue and that the city had doubts that Davis Street could repay the loan.
Johnson said Davis Street repaid the loan to the city in full on Jan. 6, 2017.
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