GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A long-time Green Bay City Council member is responding Wednesday night after being accused of making inappropriate comments to a city staff member earlier this year.
According to city documents obtained by Action 2 News (see the sidebar "Related Links"), Guy Zima asked a city employee whether she made a sex tape, and as a result of complaints against him a city attorney imposed requirements on Zima when he's around city staff. Zima tells us the incident is "completely overblown."
In the redacted documents, City Attorney Vanessa Chavez reports Zima was talking with a city employee city and the discussion turned to her marriage. He asked for a picture of her husband and said, "Doesn't look like a schmuck."
The records say Zima then asked her, "Are you like Kim Kardashian? Did you videotape the wedding night?"
“I was just in the vestibule of the mayor’s office really and looking over wedding pictures and stuff with 3 or 4 people and somehow the topic of reality shows came up,” said Zima.
Zima added, "Can you believe people have nothing better to do than watch those dodo birds?" and told her she could find it online because "you can google anything these days."
During the investigation, Zima admitted he watched the tape "a couple times."
Chavez says the employee told her she didn't do anything to start a discussion about her wedding or sex or Kim Kardashian.
Employees call comments "creepy" and "gross"
Human Resources Director Lynn Boland met with Zima and told him people were uncomfortable and felt the comments were "creepy." The employee also used the word "gross."
Zima told Boland he was profoundly sorry and "his mouth just got carried away." He offered to apologize, but Boland said she would convey the message for him.
“In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t said anything about that, but evidently somebody felt bad about it and I didn’t want anybody to feel bad,” said Zima. “The personnel director called me in and we talked about it. I offered a formal or a written or a verbal apology and she said it wasn’t necessary.”
Boland's report says city employees who witnessed the conversation were afraid Zima would retaliate against them. He assured Boland he wouldn't.
In October, Assistant City Attorney Joseph Faulds sent a letter to the mayor, city attorney and other city officials saying conditions were being imposed on Alderman Zima after "various incidents and complaints" about his conduct with city staff. Requirements included that two employees will always be present in his meetings with city staff, he will only meet with staff in offices and not in public places, and employees can immediately stop the meeting if they feel harassed or he's being disrespectful.
Zima was informed last week that records about the incident were being released to the public. Zima replied six days later saying the attorney didn't provide him with a copy of the records being released.
Zima: "It's completely overblown"
Zima wrote in large, underlined typeface, "Records show that these allegations are being promoted, pushed and insisted on by Mayor James Schmitt." He says complaints against him in 2008 and earlier this year were "found to be either unfounded or were resolved," and complaints were never filed with the Ethics Committee. He also reminds the attorney he's an elected official, not a city employee.
“As an elected official, if you have a complaint you are supposed to file a complaint with the ethics committee and it has never been done,” said Zima.
That could change, according to fellow Green Bay City Council Member Barbara Dorff.
Dorff released a statement to Action 2 News Wednesday saying, “I am appalled that an elected official would behave in such a disgraceful manner. My understanding is that an investigation was conducted and that these allegations have been substantiated. I have contacted legal and am considering filing an ethics complaint against Alder Zima. I want to be sensitive about not causing any additional trauma to the victim by whatever course of action is taken.”
On Broadway Inc. director Brian Johnson, who's running for the alderman's seat, is calling on Zima to resign.
However, Zima said this is exactly what some people wanted when bringing this “year-old” complaint up now.
“It’s the mayor that wants to fan this. If you look in the records you'll find, if you want to do some freedom of information records, you'll see that he's the guy that keeps pushing all these so-called incidents about Guy Zima. But it's election time, he wants Guy Zima out more than anybody else so, I’d just take it for what it's worth,” said Zima. "This thing is so un-serious that it didn't need an apology from me and I continue to work with these people everyday -- or not everyday but regularly, so I don't know what the big problem is. It's the mayor that wants to fan this."
Action 2 News did contact Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt’s office for comment but he was out of the office Wednesday. We also talked to some other Green Bay City Council members, but they were just learning of the accusations and were unable to comment at this time.