Report Shows Snipes at Fault for Sexist Session
Investigation finds Snipes tried to shift blame for training session
By Mary Tuma,
3:30PM, Wed. Jun. 3, 2015
The city official who organized the now controversial training session, which was meant to educate staff on how to deal with a majority female council, failed to properly vet the speakers and sought to shift blame on who came up with the topic, according to a new report.
Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes invited Ft-Lauderdale-based Jonathan K. Allen and Miya Burt-Stewart to deliver a session – amounting to some heavy mansplaining – titled “Women Leading in Local Government” for city staff in March. The speakers asserted that women council members are “less likely to read agenda information”; have a harder time dealing with financial matters and the city budget than men; and act more emotional than men.
When video of the presentation was made public by the local daily last month, council members promptly held a press conference denouncing the session as outdated and offensive to women, as the Chronicle previously reported. “I was a combination of shocked, appalled, and speechless,” said District 2 City Council member Delia Garza at the time. The fiasco generated national lampooning and media attention.
City Manager Marc Ott then initiated an investigation into the process by which Allen was invited. The result, a 28-page recently released internal report (call it an explanation of the mansplanation) found glaring inconsistencies in Snipes’ story. The investigative team was led by Sue Edwards, an assistant city manager, and comprised of human resources employee, Wendy Riggins, Labor Relations ombudsman Tom Stribling, and Margo Frasier, Austin’s police monitor. Investigators conducted 21 interviews, including three separate interviews with Snipes, and reviewed several documents.
The report highlights the long-time relationship between Allen and Snipes, who have been friends for nearly two decades. The timing of Allen’s visit coincided with the Urban Fest and the Google Fiber reception for the Texas Relays, events the men attended together. The city paid for two night’s of Allen’s stay, the report notes, the arrangements of which were planned before Snipes even met with the groups that were to be subject to the sexist session.
As for vetting, Snipes conducted two Google searches – one for Snipes and one for Burt-Stewart, but only after she was invited. A “very basic search revealed two controversies that would have warranted further exploration as they were ethical in nature,” investigators wrote of Burt-Stewart. And controversy surrounding Allen – who was faced friction (and an eventual firing) from women leaders in the Florida town he oversaw as city manager – was discussed with Snipes who determined it was of no concern. Additionally, Allen gave Snipes an abstract of the presentation in advance and while there is some “conflicting testimony” over whether the report was refined, it is clear that it stayed largely in its original form. The invitation to Ott “went unnoticed," the report also notes, and Snipes was left to his own devices, with no involvement from other city management officials.
While Snipes claimed “affinity” and W2W (women to women) groups requested specific training on how to deal with women in leadership, “[d]ocumentation and the interviews do not support this assertion.” The decision to invite Allen and the content of the presentation had previously been determined, the report finds. In fact, group members were “surprised” to learn about the topic of the session upon receiving the invitation. The investigation also discredits Snipes’ defense that the lecture was meant as a managing and communication training, not a training on how to deal with women holding elected office.
In its most damning line, the report notes that while Snipes apologized for the contents of the training, he “set forth on a course of action designed to shift the responsibility for deciding the topic” in order to portray the presentation as not focusing on women elected leaders.
After the incident, Snipes was placed on paid administrative leave and subsequently announced his resignation; his last day will be Aug. 10. Something tells us the women on the dais won’t be attending his goodbye party.