- Richmond City Council President Kathy Graziano (left) and Councilman Bruce Tyler (right).
City Councilman Marty Jewell is calling for an investigation into whether a council liaison was inappropriately touched by another liaison.
In an e-mail exchange between the two liaisons dated May 6, according to a copy obtained by Style Weekly, Jennifer Walle accuses David Hathcock of “extremely inappropriate” behavior. The incident is alleged to have occurred in Walle's office at City Hall on April 21.
Walle is liaison to Councilman Bruce Tyler; Hathcock is liaison to Council President Kathy Graziano.
City Council has yet to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from Style for copies of the original e-mails. Jewell, who also obtained a copy of the e-mails, says he's confirmed with Walle that the e-mail exchange is authentic.
Walle writes in the e-mail to Hathcock: “On Wednesday, April 21st you came to my office to talk to me. While you were in my office, you physically touched me several times in a way that made me very uncomfortable. Also, some of the comments you made about your ‘feelings' for me were extremely inappropriate in a professional environment.”
Hathcock responded minutes later, according to the copy of the e-mail, writing: “I had the same thought. You are right.”
Walle didn't return Style's calls seeking comment. Hathcock also couldn't be reached by press time.
On Sunday, Jewell accused Council President Graziano of “deception and duplicity” in blocking efforts by members of Council to learn more about the allegation. A closed-door meeting planned for Dec. 28 to discuss the incident had been canceled.
At City Council's meeting Monday, Jewell's call for a three-person subcommittee to investigate the incident was rebuffed. Graziano was re-elected as council president and Ellen Robertson as vice president, despite Jewell's motion to delay the vote until an investigation into the alleged incident could take place. For months, a battle has been brewing behind the scenes at City Hall about who should lead the council. Graziano retained her presidency despite a behind-the-scenes push by Tyler during the last several months to replace her.
“Ms. Graziano has some explaining to do,” Jewell said Sunday. “I have said from day one that this matter has gone on far too long. I've tried to keep separate the issue of leadership. But given the circumstances, we cannot ignore this any longer.”
After Monday's meeting, Graziano told reporters she is unaware of any complaint filed by Walle with the city's human resources department. Before an investigation can take place, she says, such a complaint must first be filed.
“This is an HR matter and proper procedure must be followed,” she says, adding that the department was notified of the alleged incident months ago, but declining to comment further. She says she can't take any action with regard to Hathcock's position until the “allegations have been investigated.”
Councilwoman Reva Trammell backs up Jewell's claim that Graziano declined an invitation to a Dec. 28 closed-door meeting to discuss the alleged incident. There's been no public explanation of why the meeting was canceled.
“I wish that meeting would have occurred,” says Tyler, who along with Councilman Douglas Conner was also set to attend the meeting. Calling it a personnel matter, Tyler says he cannot comment publicly on the allegation.
On Monday, Tyler voted in favor of council investigating the alleged incident -- it was defeated 5-3 (Councilman Conner was absent) -- and says he supports “Jewell's efforts to have open dialogue on this or any other issue.”
What's next? Jewell says at this point it's up to Walle to press the issue.
“It ain't over until it's over,” Jewell says.
Editor's note: This story includes a correction made since the print edition.