OPINION:  Oxnard Homeless Commission Chair Resigns

"Allegations of harassment, hostile workplace environment, and discriminatory practices"

Opinion Douglas Partello

 

The recent resignation of the Chair of the Homeless Commission, has brought back the spectra of allegations of harassment, hostile workplace environment, and discriminatory practices within the Housing Authority. There are some well documented cases of such allegations, and a settlement that was reached in one case, that I am aware of. There is a history of documented allegations of abuse by Emilio Ramirez, Housing Authority Director, which resulted in a five day suspension for one.

The City went to great expense for an investigation rouse, used to pressure employees to say anything negative about the City Treasurer, so Alex Nguyen, City Manager,  could have an excuse for the City Council to strip him of his role and responsibility as a watchdog over public funds. When the first investigation yielded nothing he could use, he paid for a second investigation, hid it from the public, lest we see any exculpatory evidence, and only told us what the city manager wanted to use to smear him. At the time, the City Manager said that ANY department head that was accused of such things would be fired.

It may show the Council takes such situations very seriously, or they were willing to override State statute to take our watchdog off his watch. Yet, he city manager’s friend who came with him from Riverside, has not been fired, though long-time employees and volunteers have quit because of him. The situation at the Housing Authority demands a complete investigation, and if the facts prove mistreatment of staff, or committee volunteers, then action should be taken to remove any such threat.

City Staff should not have to work in a hostile work environment. Nor should they be fearful of retaliation if they share concerns, that they may lose their jobs. We need a restructuring of the Whistleblower program, that concerns can be shared with an outside, independent entity, and not have to now direct concerns to department heads. It is like the hen going to the fox with concerns.

The important work being done on behalf of the residents demands a workplace free from harassment, or intimidation. The staff and volunteers must be able to share concerns without the fear of retaliation. Their voice is important to be safeguards against abuses, which we have seen far too often with City Hall.

Nothing short of a full, and independent investigation will satisfy the concerns of the citizens, staff, and union representatives that the City of Oxnard is a safe workplace for staff, volunteers, and citizens.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peggy Rivera, for over fourteen years of service on the Homeless Committee, three times the Chair, and recipient of a declaration given by City Council for ten years of service to the City, and those less fortunate in our community.

Douglas Partello
Retired neonatal respiratory therapist
Homeless Advocate
Community Activist
Executive Director of the Nicaraguan Children’s Fund


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