The Willows City Council voted 3-1 to censure one of its members last week after an investigation found that complaints made about Councilmember Jeff Williams by a coworker were credible. 

According to a staff report, this item was placed on the agenda to allow Council to consider a resolution for censure based on the factual findings from the final report of Workplace Investigation completed by neutral outside investigator David Stallard Investigations into allegations that councilmember Williams engaged in misconduct toward a city staff member and to allow councilmember Williams an opportunity to respond to those factual findings.

“A censure by the City Council constitutes and is to be treated as an official expression of disapproval or criticism,” read the release. “A censure is generally understood to be ‘an official reprimand or condemnation; an authoritative expression of disapproval or blame.’”

According to the investigation report, a woman claimed that Williams called her “little lady” on several occasions. The complaint also alleged that Williams said he was hoping to find her alone during an incident that occurred in March and questioned her about politics, children, and her fiancé’ in a “rude and offensive” manner. 

The investigation included several video interviews, including two with Williams, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the report, Williams said he did not think he had greeted his accuser by saying ‘good morning little lady,” and instead said ‘good morning young lady.’

“Williams said that he has ‘a memory defect’ regarding remembering names, so he would generally refer to people as ‘young lady,’ ‘ma’am,’ or ‘sir’ depending on if they were younger than him, older than him, or male,” read the investigation report.

Despite the accounts from the accuser and Williams being similar, the investigator concluded that there was enough evidence to support that these claims were credible.

“There is a little difference between ‘young lady’ and ‘little lady,’” read the report. “Both are a diminutive way to address someone, and both reference gender. While it might be true that ‘young lady’ is less patronizing than ‘little lady,’ both terms only reinforce the relative power difference between Williams and (the accuser) making Williams’ explanation a distinction without much difference. It is understandable that it would make (the accuser) uncomfortable, as both are subtle reminders of the structural power differences between them. The same dynamic also makes it understandable why (the accuser) did not mention to Williams that she did not like being referred to in that way.” 

 

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