WATERTOWN — City officials are investigating a complaint by a female city employee who is accusing mayoral candidate Cliff G. Olney III of directing some inappropriate comments at her during a recent zombie task force meeting.
Mr. Olney, who finished fourth in a mayoral primary last week, said he received an email on Friday notifying him about the investigation.
The complaint stems from Mr. Olney allegedly telling the female employee that she should wear a maid’s outfit while going out to look for so-called zombie homes in the city, he said.
Mr. Olney allegedly made the comment during a May 29 zombie task force meeting, according to the email from city water superintendent Vicky L. Murphy, who is conducting the investigation. She does not identify the female employee who filed the complaint.
He denied making the comment.
“I never said that at all,” he said. “I would never say something like that.”
Mr. Olney accused the city of conducting “a smear campaign” against him “to silence” him and get him off the zombie task force.
He’s been a thorn in the city’s side for several years while running for City Council twice in the past four years and as a mayoral candidate during the recent primary campaign.
Mr. Olney also has been critical of the work of the zombie task force, contending it’s not getting the job done to find abandoned properties and getting them occupied again.
City Manager Rick Finn declined to comment about the investigation, saying “it’s a personnel matter” and he could not talk about it “for private purposes.”
By state law, the city is required to investigate any workplace harassment complaints lodged by a city employee, Mr. Finn said.
The meeting was attended by a number of city employees and members of the zombie task force, Mr. Olney said. Several members of the task force declined to comment, referring questions to Mr. Finn.
This weekend, Mr. Olney posted on his Facebook page that the city is investigating the complaint. He decided to make it public because the email from Ms. Murphy stated the city could not promise to keep the matter confidential.
Instead of being silent and staying out of the upcoming mayoral campaign this fall, Mr. Olney now vows to fight the allegations and will conduct a write-in campaign against mayoral candidate Jeffrey Smith.
Mr. Finn chose Ms. Murphy to head the investigation because she can get to the bottom of what happened, he said. The city manager would not say how long it will take to complete the investigation.