Stockton, CA — In the wake of allegations of creating a hostile work environment by Councilwoman Michele Padilla, Stockton City Manager Harry Black was met with a robust defense from city staff and community leaders at the latest City Council meeting.Amidst the controversy, directors from various sectors and CEOs took to the podium during the public commentary session on Tuesday to attest to Black's positive influence and support for community programs. El Concilio's Inés Ruiz-Huston thanked Black for aiding a crucial rental assistance program, which provided over $44 million in aid during the pandemic.
Joelle Gomez, a lifelong Stockton resident and CEO of the Children's Home of Stockton, praised Black as the strongest city manager she's encountered in her 35-year career, lauding his leadership and collaborative spirit.
Despite two agenda items considering disciplinary action against Black in recent meetings, specific reasons for these considerations remain confidential due to closed session rules governed by the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Councilmen Michael Blower and Brando Villapudua publicly expressed their appreciation for Black and the community support he garnered, suggesting criticism may stem from politically motivated and unsubstantiated attacks.
While Councilwoman Padilla, who made the initial allegations against Black, remained silent on her previous claims during the meeting, her use of official letterhead to air grievances has been called into question for its appropriateness under the League of California Cities' guidelines.
Former vice mayor and mayoral candidate Christina Fugazi was among the few voices opposing Black, citing concerns over the treatment of city employees—a claim contradicted by several staff members' testimonials.
Lora Larson, director of the Office of Violence Prevention, openly refuted allegations against Black, emphasizing his professionalism and mentorship during her tenure. Larson, along with other city employees, is wearing pins stating "You don't speak for me" to assert their individual perspectives against the narrative being constructed by the councilwoman's allegations.
Carrie Wright, director of economic development, also spoke highly of her experience working under Black's management, highlighting that her continued service is indicative of the positive work environment he fosters.
This show of solidarity for Black has brought to light the complexities and internal politics of city governance, as well as the personal reputations at stake. The council meeting revealed a divide between the allegations presented and the experiences of numerous city staff, suggesting that the issue may be more nuanced than initially perceived.
Hannah Workman of The Stockton Record reports on the unfolding situation, with more information available at the publication’s website.
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