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Richmond's second-highest ranking administrator resigns amid outcry over misuse of public funds
[May 19, 2013]

Richmond's second-highest ranking administrator resigns amid outcry over misuse of public funds

RICHMOND, May 19, 2013 (The Oakland Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Dogged for two months by calls for her ouster since an independent investigation revealed she misused city resources, Human Resources Director Leslie Knight will resign effective July 1, City Manager Bill Lindsay announced Friday.

"(Knight will resign) for the purpose of beginning her retirement," Lindsay wrote in an email sent to top city officials late Friday. "Her remaining work with the city will be in the form of assisting during this personnel transition and the transition to a new fiscal year." The announcement comes after weeks of building outcry stemming from an early March investigation report revealing that Knight improperly received at least $400 monthly in a car allowance while also using a city vehicle; used paid city staff to make trinkets; and ordered a subordinate to access a whisteblower's emails after she lodged a complaint against Knight.

The report came after months of investigation by Sacramento-based Van Dermyden Allison Law firm, which looked into a 59-page complaint lodged last year by Stacie Plummer, 43, a finance manager in the Library and Cultural Services Department. Many of the allegations, including that Knight used city resources to profit from her trinket business, were found untrue.

But the misuse of some resources, including thousands from collecting a car allowance while also using a city car, outraged union officials and residents who demanded Knight be dismissed.

Lindsay, who brought Knight to the city from Contra Costa County, where she was human resources director, consistently resisted calls to fire Knight. He said he had a "plan to make the city whole," that would include Knight paying back the money she improperly collected.

But for reasons still unclear, Knight opted to resign.

Knight's critics welcomed the news, but concerns remain.

"I'm hoping Ms. Knight's resignation will help deter further wrongdoing, workplace bullying, harassment and retaliation that has become pervasive as part of the culture of the city," Plummer wrote in an email Saturday. "Unfortunately, her resignation does not address her debt owed to the taxpayers from her sustained transgressions. Does this send a message to city employees that abuse of authority that appears to lead to embezzlement and misappropriation of public resources ends in a comfy retirement " In response to an email Friday asking to provide the terms of Knight's retirement, Lindsay wrote, "There are no financial terms except what would go to any other employee (pay out of vacation leave, etc.). I do not know what her pension is." The city has refused to release the full investigation report, citing attorney-client privilege. Lindsay released a two-page summary in March, saying the investigation rejected allegations that Knight "spied" on Plummer with surveillance equipment, and found that she did not abuse her power or retaliate, harass or treat subordinates unequally.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, both of whom had expressed concerns with Lindsay's earlier decision not to fire or demote Knight, did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Councilman Tom Butt said, "I always liked Leslie, and I wish her the best." In his internal city note on Friday, Lindsay praised Knight for her service to the city and provided a list of accomplishments.

"During the recent recession," Lindsay wrote, "Leslie helped steer a path that provided for fiscal responsibility, virtually all of which was accomplished without the devastating layoffs that happened in Richmond during 2003 and 2004 ... Leslie's strategies helped steer the City organization in this direction." Lindsay also noted that Knight in 2010 received the League of California Cities John Nail Award, given annually to an outstanding municipal assistant.

"This honor was very well-deserved," Lindsay wrote.

Knight, 57, could not be reached for comment. It is unknown if the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office is investigating the matter, which Plummer has requested.

Knight's base salary in 2011 was $220,000, with total compensation of $281,507, according to this newspaper's public employee salary database.

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or and follow

___ (c)2013 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.) Visit The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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