Larry Weis, Seattle City Light’s new general manager and CEO, did not inform city officials interviewing him for the job that he was the subject of an active workplace investigation in Texas concerning an allegation that he presided over a culture of harassment, retaliation and discrimination against women, The Seattle Times found.
Seattle officials also did not learn of the investigation from The Search Partnership, an executive recruiting firm City Light paid nearly $50,000 to identify and vet qualified candidates. A Seattle Times reporter obtained 50 pages of investigative records by filing public-records requests with the city of Austin, where Weis served as Austin Energy’s general manager since 2010. Those records cost nothing.
The Austin investigation ended in November, two days after Seattle Mayor Ed Murray named Weis as his pick for the City Light job. The investigation exonerated Weis and determined that there wasn’t evidence of a pattern of discriminatory conduct.
But the fact that the Austin probe coincided with Weis’ effort to lead City Light, an agency with its own history of gender-diversity problems, raises the question of whether he should have been more forthcoming with Seattle officials — and whether the search firm paid to check Weis’ background fulfilled its role.
Weis went through a 90-minute interview as part of the HR investigation involving him last year, but when a reporter asked Weis about complaints from his job at Austin Energy, he said he didn’t know anything about it. A couple of weeks later, he acknowledged that he had been investigated but hadn’t initially recalled it because the accusation against him “was a little bit of a stretch.”
“I would have remembered something that would have been significant,” Weis said. He added that there was “no reason” to disclose unsubstantiated complaints and false statements during the interview process with Seattle officials.
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