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Holmer Harassment? - Allegations Prompt Dismissal
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Allegations of sexual harassment plus possible improprieties regarding the employment of some city workers led to the dismissal of former Riverbank City Manager Rich Holmer, according to results of an investigation requested by the city council and completed by the Fresno legal firm of Gilmore, Wood, Vinnard & Magness.

Several employees told investigator Daniel Rowley, working on behalf of Shelline Bennett, Esq. of the legal firm that Holmer had referred to some female employees in private as "hot" or "sexy" or "cute," told them they looked nice and he considered them attractive, and made inappropriate comments with a sexual innuendo in public. He sometimes took female employees to lunch and invited five or so over the course of a six-month period.

One employee told the investigator that during such a lunch they discussed her career and prospects and that during the drive back to the office he put his hand on her knee.

"The weight of the evidence" said Rowley's report, "including Mr. Holmer's description of his lunch, supports the conclusion that during lunch to get to know her outside of work, they discussed her career, her aspirations and possible future advancement. However there were no offers or promises made regarding this or any other positions with the City.

"The evidence, in my opinion," Rowley added," also supports the conclusion that on the way back to the office after lunch Mr. Holmer touched and rubbed her leg and held her hand for a period of time."

Some employees reported they had not been offended by Holmer's remarks but found them inappropriate and unprofessional. However, the city had received no written or formal complaint about Holmer's behavior.

Holmer replied in a rebuttal to investigator Rowley acting for the City of Riverbank that he likes to joke with people and has a habit of complimenting people on their appearance, for example, on a nice scarf or a new sweater. He also tries to find a common area of interest with employees such as baseball or their children and talk with them about it.

"As to the lunch, I at no time placed my hand on her knee or thigh nor did I hold her hand. We gave each other a high five and compared hand sizes. There was no intention on my part to harass. If she believes I had done something offensive I apologize."

The type of conduct that Holmer engaged in included jokes, comments on the attractiveness of female employees and innuendo of a sexual nature, said Rowley. The report also indicated that one employee walked into Holmer's office for a meeting and he said something like "Here are the double Ds." Holmer reportedly admitted referring to the employee in this manner but did not think it was inappropriate to make this remark because he saw it as "a joke."

In a similar incident Mayor Virginia Madueno reported that a luncheon included games for the staff to play, such as the apple stacking game. A female employee finished first and a male competitor having difficulty stacking the apples said he wanted to use the female's apples to complete his stack.

"Her apples do stack up better," Holmer said. "Her apples are better looking than yours."

Madueno added his manner clearly implied he was referring to the employee's breasts. Holmer admitted making the statement but said it was "taken out of context and twisted" and he did not intend any sexual innuendo.

Rowley also talked about several cases of promotion or dismissal and allegations that Holmer asked a department head to write a critical evaluation of an employee's work so she could be more easily dismissed, but found there was insufficient evidence to sustain this.

One more allegation is that Holmer communicated with other employees after he was placed on leave. But Holmer said nobody told him not to speak to city employees once he was placed on leave from his office and told to remove his personal belongings.

Letter from Holmer to the investigator are also a part of the final report.

And while he denies any wrongdoing as far as the sexual harassment allegations go, Holmer wrote in a letter to Rowley:

"I have no doubt that everyday I make some type of mistake and at times I have said something that has offended someone else. With that said I know I have been an exceptional City Manager for Riverbank and I am proud of the legacy I leave," Holmer wrote.

After 15 years as city manager of Riverbank, Holmer was placed on administrative leave on March 30 and fired in early June.