CARSON — City Manager Sharon Landers has come under fire from residents and employees for what they describe as “bullying” and “harassment.” The City Council has asked the city attorney to investigate the employees’ claims.
During the Aug. 3 City Council meeting, Councilman Jawane Hilton stepped away from his seat with his council colleagues to address the council as a longtime resident.
“I am very concerned about our city manager bullying, discriminating and her attitude towards employees and myself,” Hilton said. “Too many employees are afraid to speak out because of their fear of retaliation. I can no longer sit to the side and this must be exposed.”
Hilton said he was speaking out as a resident to let Landers know publicly that she can’t bully him and her behavior will no longer be tolerated.
He also asked that what he called her “long overdue employee evaluation” be put on the council agenda.
“She covers up her bullying by hiding behind powers in our city charter,” Hilton said. “Her bullying ways must stop. I am a resident and approve this message.”
City Attorney Sanaz “Sunny” Soltani clarified that in previous council meetings, employees were asked to come forward to her office with any complaints about the city manager.
“Any employees with complaints about the city manager should have come forward to my office and to date my office hasn’t received any complaints,” Soltani said. “This council body has invited any employee who felt threatened to bypass [human resources] and come to my office and they haven’t.”
Councilman Jim Dear questioned the city attorney.
“You were directed by the City Council to send email, letter or some type of written or electronic communication to every single city employee asking if they were willing to communicate their grievances,” Dear told Soltani. “Have you done that?”
Soltani responded: “I may have misunderstood. I thought I provided my email and cell phone number for anybody that had a grievance. I am happy to send the email. … I don’t have the employee’s emails … but I am happy to share that email so employees would have that in writing tomorrow morning.”
Dear corroborated that some employees “don’t feel safe from retaliation.”
“I am asking you publicly to please follow through because there is a morale problem in City Hall,” Dear said.
Dear is a longtime elected official in the city who was recalled from the City Council in a 2016 special election, only to be returned to office by voters in 2918.
Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes attempted to refer to Dear’s recall as being the “lowest time” city employees ever faced, only to be called out by Dear and other residents for what were termed “out-of-line” comments.
“Thank you [Dear] for so gallantly standing up for your employees,” said Tanya Cruz. “Mayor Davis-Holmes comment was so out of line. What are you doing to bring up morale? Our city is still a mess. It’s all on you, mayor.”
Several city employees spoke out about treatment by Landers, but declined to reveal their identity in fear of retaliation.
“Our union representative was fired after working for the city for over two decades,” said one employee.
The former union representative has been identified as Anna Meni, who ran for mayor in the November 2020 election on a platform of being a lifelong Carson resident looking to “weed out corrupt politicians” being recycled on the council.
Meni declined to be interviewed for this story.
“Employee turnover is at its highest since I have been employed with the city of Carson and people are leaving due to the racist behavior and favoritism by executive management,” said another employee via email. “The amount of verbal abuse towards city employees and outside parties is nothing I have ever experienced in a professional environment.”
Carson residents applauded Hilton for speaking up on behalf of the employees.
“Tolerating the city of Carson’s incompetent and racist manager, while directing staff to contact the city attorney, is a shocking way to shield the organization and its mayor from accountability,” said Susan Otineru. “The mayor’s ego is allowing the city manager’s racism and discrimination to thrive.”
At the close of the meeting, Hilton requested an outside agency investigate the employee’s complaints.
Attempts to reach Mayor Davis-Holmes and Landers for comment were unsuccessful.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.