SEATTLE - Mayor Jenny Durkan's sudden announcement Monday morning about the resignation of Seattle City Light CEO Larry Weis came as a surprise to City Light employees, who received a memo shortly after Durkan said she and Weis reached a "mutual agreement" that the highest paid city executive should step down.
The resignation of Weis -- who was City Light's CEO for two years -- came as a pleasant surprise to Seattle City Light analyst Beth Rocha, who publicly asked Durkan and the Seattle City Council for help with dozens of allegations of workplace sexism, sexual harassment and even assault against female City Light employees by various male co-workers.
"Getting rid of the person at the top is just the beginning of changing the way in with City Light does business in responding to serious employee concerns," Rocha said, adding that she and dozens of other female City Light workers faced a constant culture of sexual harassment by men at the company.
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And while no one has accused Weis of ever sexual harassing anyone himself, Rocha told KIRO-7 he was dismissive about the formal complaints of female workers, even when she brought them up to Weis in person.
"Many people have experienced things that nobody should experience in a professional environment," she said. "The range of those experiences is all the way from the benevolent sexism of 'pet names' type of things, all the way to physical acts."
Mayor Durkan said part of the reason she wanted Weis's resignation was to bring “change to the workplace” environment, but she would not elaborate further. In early November, Rocha sent documentation of complaints to Mayor Durkan, the City Council and the Seattle Women's Commission. Each sent Rocha a reply, promising “full consideration” of the issues she raised.
"I am reaching out to you in hopes of getting support regarding workplace sexism and sexual harassment at City Light," wrote Rocha, explaining that complaints and a petition signed by 42 female workers were also sent to the City of Seattle’s Department of Human Resources. "Traditional methods have not resulted in any change or concern," she wrote.
Rocha wrote about Weis who was paid about $360,000 per year: "Nobody should be getting a pay raise at Seattle City Light, let alone Larry Weis, with something like this being swept under the rug," she wrote.
Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who leads the committee overseeing City Light, told KIRO-7 she showed Weis copies of sexual harassment complaints made by several female City Light workers at a recent meeting. “I still have questions for him,” Sawant said. “I don’t think Mr. Weis’s performance was in any way proportionate to the salary he was receiving,” she said.
Rocha hopes to speak to Durkan's team as they begin the nationwide hunt for a replacement to lead City Light. "Thanks for starting to change what needs to be changed," she said.
City Light directed all questions regarding Weis to Mayor Durkan’s office.
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