Half Moon Bay city officials have reached a settlement agreement with their former city clerk, agreeing to pay her $50,000 over alleged harassment dating back to 2014.
Siobhan Smith, who had worked as city clerk since 2005, alleged that she was harassed by Half Moon Bay resident John Ullom. In February, she filed a lawsuit against the city because she claimed it didn't do its job of protecting her from Ullom's actions.
In her complaint, Smith highlighted several of Ullom's actions she deemed inappropriate. She made reference to Ullom's numerous public records act requests, and a video he crafted from a March 2014 City Council meeting, among other grievances. In the video, which she referred to in the complaint as offensive, Smith is shown biting her lip and looking concerned. Ullom set the video to music and put “Siobhan 'The Factor' Smith” over her face.
Ullom has said that the video, which he had exclusively shared with Smith, was meant as a joke and that at the time Smith told him she thought it was funny and was sharing it with friends.
Smith was critical of the way the city handled her initial complaints about Ullom. She stated that Ullom used inappropriate language in his public acts requests suggesting that she had “power” over the other city staff members and that Ullom would reveal the “truth” about her.
When Smith brought these concerns to Half Moon Bay City Manager Magda Gonzalez and requested that another employee handle Ullom's public records acts requests, Gonzalez reportedly told her to be strong and indicated that her request “showed weakness.”
Smith took a medical leave of absence in August 2015. When she requested additional time off in December her supervisors denied the request, according to the complaint.
In January 2016, Smith requested reasonable accommodation and asked that city look into her harassment and discrimination complaints.
The city reportedly refused to allow her to return to work but did agree to explore her claims.
In June 2016 city staff members reportedly told her that they didn't find legal merit in her arguments.
The settlement agreement was signed by the city on Dec. 11. The funds were to be paid out in two checks: $25,858.43 went directly to Smith and the remainder was written out to her attorney.
Half Moon Bay City Attorney Catherine Engberg said she couldn't report on the details of why the city chose to settle with Smith.
Speaking at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock noted that the city believed that it would have prevailed had it gone to court. She added that she did not the believe that the city should be deemed at fault.