St. Petersburg deputy mayor resigns amid ‘hostile operate environment’ allegations

Released Sep. 2|Up to date Sep. 2

ST. PETERSBURG — Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owens resigned Friday following allegations from the city’s previous communications director that she fostered a “hostile work atmosphere.”

Owens tendered her resignation about two hours following Mayor Ken Welch introduced to workers that he had put her on administrative go away pending an investigation into Janelle Irwin Taylor’s promises. Owens’ very last day at the city is Sept. 9.

“Recent functions distract from our impactful and intentional work to shift our excellent city forward, and therefore I resign in the spirit of progress,” Owens wrote in an e-mail to Welch. “I have been privileged to serve together with committed colleagues on behalf of our city, who I know will keep on to go after the mission of fairness and innovation. I seem forward to continuing to be a alter agent to put into practice that mission.”

The initially scandal of the Welch administration began 8 months into his tenure on Thursday, when Taylor, the city’s former communications director, abruptly resigned. She cited Owens as the explanation why, expressing she designed a “hostile operate environment” and “culture of bullying” though furnishing very little interaction or steering.

Taylor’s accusations are related to those designed in a letter signed by some of Welch’s former campaign employees. Prior to becoming appointed by Welch to serve as deputy mayor and main of plan, Owens was Welch’s marketing campaign manager and transition director.

The letter, with signatures eradicated out of anxiety of retaliation, was offered to the Tampa Bay Occasions by a previous marketing campaign staffer who was a single of the individuals who signed it. A superior-ranking marketing campaign worker who go through it at that time verified its authenticity. The letter commences with praise for Welch’s campaign and his 15-issue victory in the August 2021 key election.

“Since the majority of the group was fashioned in May possibly of 2021, the campaign’s central leadership has been vested in our marketing campaign manager, Stephanie Owens,” the letter reads. “Over the course of the past four months less than her leadership, the marketing campaign internally has devolved into a harmful operate surroundings that has taken form in occasions of aggression, rudeness, deception, deep unprofessionalism and a common negativity to persons the two inside of and exterior of the campaign.”

It carries on: “Each of us have tales and ordeals that have compelled us to pen this letter.”

Owens originally referred responses about Taylor’s promises to a metropolis spokesperson. Reached by the Occasions on Friday, Owens denied the allegations.

“There’s no truth of the matter to what she explained,” Owens said. “But what’s extra important is to preserve any distractions at a minimum amount to permit the Welch administration to keep on to push and be thriving.”

Requested about the campaign letter detailing related allegations to Taylor, Owens said, “I do not have remark about that letter.”

Welch notified staff of inserting Owens on administrative leave in an e-mail Friday early morning. He did not react to requests by telephone, textual content and e-mail for comment about the campaign letter or Owens’ resignation. A information conference is prepared for next 7 days.

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“Please be certain that our governing concepts set a higher typical for civility and professionalism, and they will be upheld,” Welch explained in the email to town staff. “If you working experience any problem that you consider could violate our Metropolis procedures on qualified and moral behavior, make sure you notify your supervisor or the Human Means Department. We will keep on to transfer ahead.”

Subsequent Owens’ resignation, interim city spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez explained there is no more time a require for an internal review. Owens created an annual income of $217,000.

She said the mayor has requested human assets team to build additional initiatives to educate staff members on their legal rights and protections meant to foster place of work civility and professionalism.

Taylor said she appreciates how Welch has responded to her concerns.

“I am grateful to Mayor Welch for getting this condition critically and ensuring satisfactory investigation,” Taylor said. “I am hopeful these situations will get started a interval of healing and advancement.”

Requested if she would get her job back if offered, Taylor claimed, “I would appraise that determination if the option became readily available.”

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