MARCO ISLAND — Two City of Marco Island employees accused Councilman Wayne Waldack of making inappropriate sexual remarks to them in October.
City Manager James Riviere sent a letter to the two employees, telling them to contact him if it should happen again, and that Waldack had been spoken with concerning the matter.
“I am saddened to hear of your experiences regarding inappropriate behavior on the part of Councilor Wayne Waldack,” Riviere wrote. “The City does not tolerate such actions.”
In a memo sent Oct. 28 by City Clerk Laura Litzan to Riviere, Litzan said she learned of the allegations Oct. 18 from another city employee. Litzan wrote that when she asked for an example of the conduct, she was told that Waldack told another city employee “she had beautiful eyes ... and the rest of her wasn’t bad either.”
When asked about the allegations, Waldack said he apologizes if any of his comments offended another person. He denied making the statement described in Litzan’s letter, but said he has complimented the appearance of female city staffers in the past.
“I don’t remember saying that,” Waldack said. “Anybody can make that complaint, and not have anything to back it up with. It’s all, I said, she said, he said, she said.”
When asked if the comment described in Litzan’s letter was inappropriate, Waldack said, “it could be, depending on the person you are saying it to, and under the terms in which you are saying it.”
Under city policy, sexual conduct of an employee in a position to influence employment decisions can be considered sexual harassment when the targeted individual’s reaction to such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual.
The policy also states that all harassment claims must be taken seriously, and that any unwelcome physical, written or spoken conduct that is intimidating, hostile, offensive or uncomfortable is “unacceptable.”
City Police Capt. David Baer wrote a letter to Riviere on Oct. 28 documenting the “workplace harassment.” Baer wrote that two female staffers conveyed their concerns about Waldack, worried that if they complained their employment would be jeopardized, and “begged for anonymity.”
“Based on the facts supplied,” Baer wrote, “I cannot give specific dates nor a historical timeline, however it is clear that the conduct has happened more recently than not, and that the conduct seems to ebb and flow with some periods of time being more intense and others less so.”
The employees have remained anonymous, Waldack confirmed.
“I wasn’t told who it was. I guess they want to keep that confidential, and I’m alright with that,” Waldack said.
Waldack said that he lost his wife four years ago and that he is not interested in anyone else. He said he was just intending to make positive comments to women and wishes the situation “was buried.”
“I’ve not tried to make negative comments to people or suggestive comments, and if I did, all I can say is I was sorry for it,” Waldack said.
When contacted for this story, Council Vice Chairman Jerry Gibson said he was learning of the situation for the first time and described experiencing a rare moment of speechlessness.
“I’m shocked by it,” Gibson said, describing Waldack as a “teddy bear.”
“It’s not in his nature. I’ve never seen that side of Wayne,” Gibson said. “I’m certainly not going to pass judgment.”