Phoenix City Councilmen Michael Nowakowski’s chief aide is apparently off the hook after being accused of verbal harassment and creating a hostile work environment for a Phoenix College student. Nowakowski’s aide, Ruben Gallego, was accused of berating and intimidating 20-year-old intern, Maria Alaniz. (Arizona Republic article) Immediately after filing the complaint, Alaniz was laid off.
According to the Republic:
Gallego became upset, Alaniz said, when she failed to inform another councilman that Nowakowski was running late to a meeting.
According to Alaniz, Gallego called her into his office the morning of Feb. 4 and began yelling and pounding his desk so loud that it caught the attention of several aides working in other council offices on City Hall’s 11th floor.
Alaniz reported the incident that same day to the city’s Personnel Department, which referred her to the Equal Opportunity Department. She filed a formal complaint with EOD on Feb. 5.
“He (Gallego) was very unprofessional about it. He was aggressive towards me,” Alaniz, a political appointee, said of the meeting. “I filed two complaints against him, and right after that they let me go.”
EOD later dismissed Alaniz’s complaint, saying it did not constitute discrimination or harassment and therefore did not violate the city’s administrative policies.
Gallego, 29, said he regrets Alaniz felt uncomfortable and characterized the outburst as a “momentary lapse,” but he pointed out that Alaniz was not listening and interrupting him. He said he doesn’t recall pounding his hands on his desk.
“My aim was to make her realize what she did was a big mistake and that she understood what steps she should take to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future,” Gallego said.
Gallego said Alaniz’s position had been slated for elimination as early as December.
But less than an hour after the Feb. 4 incident, he sent an e-mail to council Chief of Staff Penny Parrella and another staffer regarding Alaniz.
“When you have a chance I would like to talk to you about Maria Alaniz,” Gallego wrote. “Her time as an intern is up.”
Alaniz had been employed with the city for nearly three years. She had been hired as an intern in 2006 by then-Councilman Doug Lingner, who recommended Alaniz for the full-time intern job when Nowakowski took over his council seat two years later.
Nowakowski said he was hurt by Alaniz’s allegations. He and his wife had paid tuition for Alaniz’s first semester of college, and Gallego had inquired earlier this year about finding her another position in the city.
If Gallego’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he is a liberal political activist. In fact, Gallego was featured in a sham advertisement put out by the Harry Mitchell campaign. I checked my sources and found that very ad at the website, MitchellTurth.com. Gallego was one of the only veterans who Mitchell could find to shill for him in the recent CD-5 elections.