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 City Manager Explains Deal that Pays Cotroneo $20,000

6 Investigates Exclusive: Allegations of Harassment and Intimidation in City Legal Department

City sources tell us that Roxann Cotroneo made offensive and intimidating comments to her staff during a visit to the City Legal Department.

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5 months ago

City Manager Explains Deal that Pays Cotroneo $20,000

CORPUS CHRISTI - City Officials explained a deal today that paid Roxann Cotroneo $20,000 even though she never worked a single day for the city.

She was hired as the new city attorney, but withdrew her acceptance of the job after an investigation revealed she made inappropriate comments to her staff.

Today, City Manager Ron Olson said the deal was basically made to avoid litigation. In other words, the city was afraid Cotroneo would sue.

As part of a mutual release agreement between the two parties, Cotroneo gets $20,000 in exchange for not filing any kind of complaint, petition, or lawsuit against the city.

The agreement also says the city and Cotroneo will not make negative comments about each other, and that Cotroneo will not discuss the release with the media.

Olson says $20,000 would be a little over one month's salary for Cotroneo. He maintains that this move saved taxpayers money.

"If a lawsuit were filed, we would spend that much money in a heartbeat just responding to the first volley of lawsuits. So, this eliminates any possibility of future action and it is the least expensive way to deal with this issue there is," Olson says.

That $20,000 figure does not include any possible reimbursement Cotroneo might put in for. Things like moving expenses and such.

We have asked the city if Cotroneo has put in for anything like that and if so, how much, but we have not gotten an answer.

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5 months ago

City Agrees to Pay Cotroneo $20,000

CORPUS CHRISTI - The City of Corpus Christi has made a deal with Roxann Cotroneo that includes paying her $20,000.

She's the former city attorney who was hired, but withdrew her acceptance of the job after an investigation revealed she made inappropriate comments to her staff.

As part of a mutual release agreement, Cotroneo said she wouldn't file any complaint, petition, or lawsuit against the city, and would not discuss the release with the media.

The city also agreed that they would not make negative remarks about Cotroneo in any future capacity.

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6 months ago

Cotroneo Withdraws from City Attorney Job, Assistant City Attorney Fired

CORPUS CHRISTI - City Manager Ron Olson announced this morning that Roxann Pais Cotroneo has withdrawn her acceptance of the job offer to become the city attorney for the City of Corpus Christi. He also said assistant city attorney Alison Logan has been terminated as a result of an investigation.

KRIS 6 News was the first to report on allegations that Cotroneo made inappropriate comments to staff on her first visit to city offices. City council members and the city manager were sent an anonymous email detailing alleged comments about race, sexuality and coarse language.

The email says Cotroneo said the following:

"I'm 100% Hispanic."
"I want you all to know, especially the men, but the women too, that I'm happily married and my husband is so HOT!"
"I can't have children, but my husband and I tried, and I mean we really tried hard, if you know what I mean!"
"You need to know that I cuss a lot and I'm going to be dropping some 'F-bombs' around here."
During the investigation by the city and the Corpus Christi Police Department, Cotroneo denied that she said anything inappropriate as detailed in the email. However, interviews with employees who were present during her first visit with city staff suggest otherwise.

The summary of the city legal investigation states "a majority of the individuals interviewed reported that they were not offended by the comments."

The findings of the investigation determined Cotroneo did not violate policies, but "the comments made by Ms. Cotroneo and topics covered by her during the staff meeting were inappropriate for that setting."

No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the email sent under the pseudonym 'Chris Smith' from a Yahoo! account.

According to the documents received from the city, Alison Logan's firing is in response to her recommending at least one city employee seek the advice of former city attorney Carlos Valdez about what they should do after meeting Cotroneo in that staff meeting.

Valdez told KRIS 6 News he received calls from city employees claiming they felt scared and intimidated as the investigation started.

Officials determined employees did not follow the proper procedures to address a grievance.

The city will now have to start the process all over to find a new city attorney.

Olson also said the City Legal Department will now have a performance assessment.

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6 months ago

Police Wrap Up Investigation Into Alleged Cotroneo Remarks

CORPUS CHRISTI - The Corpus Christi Police Department has wrapped up it's investigation into the newly hired city attorney, Roxann Cotroneo.

She has been under investigation for allegedly making inappropriate remarks to her staff.

The police department finished it's investigation yesterday and we're told the city manager's office received the results this morning.

Olson has yet to officially announce the findings of the investigation. Cotroneo has not reported to work and will not begin work until a decision is made on the results of the investigation.

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6 months ago

6 Investigates: Cotroneo Says She Felt 'Ignored' in Memo to Previous Employer

CORPUS CHRISTI - Kris 6 News has obtained a copy of a memo that Roxann Cotroneo wrote to top city officials in her final days as the city attorney in Harlingen.

The memo is essentially her resignation from the city of Harlingen back in April.

In the memo, Cotroneo writes about how she feels like she's being forced out of her job.

There were several lines that were redacted from the memo before it was released to Kris 6 News.

Those lines seem to refer to a medical condition.

Cotroneo was diagnosed with breast cancer over a year ago, and missed some time at work to recover.

She returned in December of 2012, but in the memo, addressed to the city commission and city manager, she writes that she felt like she wasn't treated the same.

She writes, "While my (blank) was a personal setback, I had looked forward to accomplishing more goals when I returned to work. So, it was painful when instead of being welcomed back, I was viewed as damaged goods and asked to leave."

"I cannot tell you hoe painful it has been to find myself routinely excluded from meetings, denied information I need to do my job, and ignored rather than consulted about the city's business. I loved this job and you have made it impossible for me to do it."

She concludes the memo by writing about some employees who supported her, while others seemed to be insensitive.

"When I think of the kindness shown by many city employees who wore (blank) to support me, it brings tears to me eyes. I only wish that I could have received a fraction of that support from the city's top officials."

Cotroneo will not start work with the city of Corpus Christi until C.C.P.D finishes its investigation into her alleged comments.

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6 months ago

6 Investigates: Allegations of Harassment and Intimidation in City Legal Department

CORPUS CHRISTI - KRIS 6 News continues to investigate the newly hired city attorney who is under investigation by the City of Corpus Christi for alleged inappropriate comments made to during a meeting with her staff.

Today, our investigative unit is in Harlingen where we've requested a copy of a memo from the City of Harlingen that Cotroneo wrote to city staff around the time she resigned.

Sources tell KRIS 6 News that Cotroneo felt unwanted in the last few months of her employment with the city. Today was supposed to be her first day as Corpus Christi's new city attorney.

Last week, city manager Ron Olson accepted Cotroneo's offer to delay her start date due to the investigation that's underway.

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6 months ago

Cotroneo's Resume Shows Two Jobs at the Same Time

CORPUS CHRISTI - Roxann Cotroneo's resume is impressive and it's not hard to see how she might've beaten the other candidates - including two people from within our city's own legal department - for the $151,000-a-year job.

Cotroneo's strong suit is a wealth of experience in city legal matters and her resume shows it with seventeen years in Dallas.

But there's an overlap in her professional timeline that raises questions.

According to both her resume and her job application, Cotroneo was both an assistant city attorney for Dallas and a special assistant U.S. attorney up there, at the same time, for almost six years.

We've filed a public information request with Dallas for her employment dates and and we've called Cotroneo's former supervisor at the U.S. Attorney's office to ask him whether the jobs may have been related.

Olson said the timeline checked out and that she did both jobs, at the same time.

"It was like one job with two responsibilities," he told KRIS-6 on Monday.

But you can read it for yourself, here: Resume - Roxann Pais Cotroneo (1).pdf

But it was a long list of responsibilities - preparing grants and budgets and developing community anti-grant intitiatives for the federal prosecutor while supervising a team of up to 38 employees in the city's legal department.

Not to mention, Cotroneo said she reduced by as high as 20 percent crime rates in seven Dallas neighborhoods as a city attorney while dropping by 45 percent certain gun-related crimes as a federal attorney.

Olson said that's why he picked Cotroneo over a long list of candidates, including the city's chief, interim litigator, Alison Logan.

"She brings a different perspective and different personality to the management team that's gonna be, I think, nothing but an asset."

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6 months ago

6 Investigates: City Manager Speaks on City Attorney Controversy

CORPUS CHRISTI - We continue our coverage on the controversy surrounding the newly hired city attorney and some alleged inappropriate comments she made to her staff.

As we reported last night, Roxann Cotroneo will not start work for the city on Monday, and she won't start to work until the city's investigation of her comments is completed.

City Manager Ron Olson tells us Cotroneo will not be paid for the days that she misses.

As we've reported since we broke this story Monday, sources inside the Legal Department tell us these comments were made.

We checked and the comments, if true, would violate city conduct policies.

We talked with Ron Olson today. He admitted Cotroneo was his hire and that he has been heavily involved in this investigation, until now.

"I think and I'm sure you have concerns about whether I'm making an unbiased appropriate investigation out of this," he told us.

He said he's decided he should be removed from the investigation, and he'll turn it over to a special team in the police department.

"I think that's as close as we're going to get to a credible answer," Olson says.

Our sources inside the Legal Department who heard the comments, tell us some employees felt uncomfortable and intimidated.

Olson says if the allegations are true, the city of course, would not tolerate comments like that.

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6 months ago

6 Investigates: Cotroneo's Start as City Attorney Delayed

CORPUS CHRISTI - KRIS 6 News has learned that Roxann Cotroneo will not start work on Monday, as scheduled. In fact, she will not begin work until the city investigation into her alleged inappropriate and intimidating remarks to her staff is wrapped up.

City Manager Ron Olson has accepted Roxann Cotroneo's offer to delay her first day of work, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The debacle began when an anonymous email accused Cotroneo of making remarks that the e-mail sender found offensive and in violation of city policy.

Those remarks referred to her sex life, her race, and regular use of foul language.

Since first reporting on the allegations on Monday, KRIS 6 News has confirmed through multiple sources that the questionable remarks were made when Cotroneo addressed the city legal department -- the same department she is set to be paid $151,000 to lead.

As of now, the city is conducting an internal investigation and Cotroneo will not begin duties as city attorney until that investigation is complete.

Cotroneo has declined to speak with KRIS 6 News about the allegations, as has City Manager Ron Olson.

Cotroneo was most recently city attorney in Harlingen.

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6 months ago

6 Investigates Exclusive: City Employees to Submit to Personal Interviews Regarding City Attorney Remarks

CORPUS CHRISTI - We continue coverage on the new city attorney and city sources who tell us she made inappropriate and intimidating remarks during a visit to the city Legal Department.

The city has been investigating since late last week, and now, there are questions about how the investigation is being conducted.

Our sources in the city Legal Department tell us employees have felt scared and intimidated since this investigation began.

They tell us it seems to be focused on finding who leaked the story to the media, and not on the comments themselves.

Employees inside the Legal Department tell us the entire department received an email from City Manager Ron Olson, saying every single staff member will have to submit to a personal interview.

And while we're told an internal investigation team is also handling this case, former city attorney Carlos Valdez says it's very unusual for the city manager to be so personally involved in an investigation.

"In cases like this, in the past, everything was turned over to the human resources department, and they conduct the investigation. And then they present their findings to the city manager or one of his assistants to make sure appropriate action is taken," Valdez says.

We attempted to get more information on this investigation from Ron Olson today, but we did not hear back.

He has declined to comment on the situation every day that we've aired something on this story.

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6 months ago

6 Investigates Exclusive: Allegations of Harassment and Intimidation in City Legal Department

CORPUS CHRISTI - The city tells KRIS 6 News that newly hired city attorney Roxann Cotroneo will start her first day of work, as scheduled, on Monday.

As we've reported, city sources tell us that Cotroneo made offensive and intimidating comments to her staff during a visit to the City Legal Department.

Meanwhile, city manager Ron Olson continues to investigate an anonymous email that claims Cotroneo made these comments. Comments confirmed by our city sources.

Now, former city attorney Carlos Valdez tells us he's getting calls from city employees, his former colleagues, telling him they're scared and intimidated.

He added that they tell him the city seems more interested in who leaked the story to the media, than the incident itself.

"I think there's some intimidation, some fear. I think some of the fear is related to possible retaliation and people either getting demoted, or getting fired and things like that," Valdez says.

Ron Olson has continually denied our request for comment since we began covering this story.

And we've called Roxann Cotroneo every day since we began airing these stories. She has still not called us back.

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6 months ago

6 Investigates: New City Attorney's Remarks Questioned

CORPUS CHRISTI - We continue our KRIS 6 News Investigation into the newly hired city attorney and an anonymous email claiming that she made inappropriate and intimidating remarks when she introduced herself to the city legal department.

The email was sent to every city council member, the mayor, and the city manager.

Tonight, we have details on exactly what the email says Roxann Cotroneo said to her staff.

And as we've reported, two sources inside city hall, who were there in that meeting, confirm that the email and the comments it lists are accurate.

In a speech to her staff, Cotroneo made comments that involve her race, sex life, medical history, and how she'll be conducting herself at work.

The email says Cotroneo said the following:

"I'm 100% Hispanic."

"I want you all to know, especially the men, but the women too, that I'm happily married and my husband is so HOT!"

"I can't have children, but my husband and I tried, and I mean we really tried hard, if you know what I mean!"

"You need to know that I cuss a lot and I'm going to be dropping some 'F-bombs' around here."

The email also says she talked about her recent masectomy, using hand motions to indicate that her breasts were still tender.

We took a look at the City's Human Resource Policy Manual. These comments and actions would definitely violate rules regarding unwelcome sexually explicit comments, actions, and innuendos.

Since Friday, we've tried to get City Manager Ron Olson to comment on the situation, and we tried again today.

He declined once again, saying he won't comment until his investigation is complete.

City council member Chad Magill says he's eagerly awaiting the results of that investigation and a report.

"I leave it in the hands of the city manager to address, and I trust that he holds his staff accountable as we do him," Magill says.

Cotroneo starts work next week.

We finally tracked down a phone number for her last night. We talked to her on the phone and she said she'd call us back.

We have not heard back yet.

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7 months ago

Council Approves New City Attorney

CORPUS CHRISTI - Corpus Christi has a new City Attorney.

The city council unanimously approved the appointment of Roxann Pais Cotroneo on Tuesday.

Cotroneo's first day on the job will February 3rd.

She was previously City Attorney for Harlingen and Executive Assistant City Attorney for Dallas.

Cotroneo is a native of Corpus Christi.

Her starting salary will be $151,661.

Cotroneo replaces Carlos Valdez who stepped down as City Attorney in October to run for the judge's seat in County Court At Law 4.

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