A growing number of elected officials and community leaders are calling for Gary Kremen to resign from public office. This comes after this news organization reported allegations about inappropriate behavior from a former staffer on his assessor campaign.
Kremen, who chairs Valley Water’s board and founded Match.com, announced he was dropping out of the Santa Clara County assessor race over the weekend, following an exclusive report from San José Spotlight about a former staffer who accused Kremen of sharing semi-nude photos of himself and his long-term partner, Essy Stone. He’s returning campaign donations, according to the Mercury News.
The former staffer who made the allegations and spoke with San José Spotlight on condition of anonymity said people must condemn sexual harassment and unchecked political power or people like Kremen will continue to exist in Santa Clara County.
“I call on all our elected officials and community leaders to speak out and call for him to resign from the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors and apologize,” the staffer said.
Kremen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The former staffer told San José Spotlight they found four partially nude photos of Kremen and his longtime partner in a Dropbox they used for his assessor campaign. The staffer said they told Kremen the photos made them uncomfortable and asked that they be deleted. They said he refused and told the staffer to work around them. The staffer said they left his campaign after Kremen allegedly threatened them by saying he would destroy a local Democratic club where they were both members because he was upset over a resolution the club was planning to approve.
Kremen has denied all wrongdoing and said the staffer wanted to smear his political campaign. He said on Saturday he has no plans to resign from Valley Water.
‘He should resign’
Several politicos said they want Kremen to step down from Valley Water’s board of directors, which he currently chairs.
State Sen. Dave Cortese and Stanford professor Michele Dauber released a joint statement over the weekend calling for Kremen to resign from office. Since then, several other local leaders are demanding Kremen’s resignation.
“He should resign from Valley Water, his behavior is unacceptable,” Assemblymember Alex Lee told San José Spotlight. “We need to believe survivors and he should be held accountable.”
Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said the issue of how to address credible accusations of harassment and toxic workplace culture run deeper than determining if a person is suited for public office.
“Everyone should be able to work in a place that does not enable or allow harassment or mistreatment,” Ellenberg said. “I also want to note that it is always difficult to speak truth to power—especially when the balance of power is so lopsided—and I admire the former staffer and others who have the courage to come forward and share their stories, despite personal and professional risk. It is this kind of courage that allows us to have the tough conversations and publicly state what we don’t find acceptable.”
Gilroy Councilmember Zach Hilton told San José Spotlight he was shocked by the allegations about Kremen’s behavior and publicly called for his resignation on Twitter. Hilton said he doesn’t know Kremen well, but noted he was one of the few elected officials who came to Gilroy last year for the raising of the LGBTQ+ pride flag.
“I understand there might be some things he’s not admitting to, but for those he is admitting to, there is no place for that in public office. We don’t treat our staff like that. So that’s really why I’m calling for his resignation as well,” Hilton told San José Spotlight.
Sunnyvale Vice Mayor Alysa Cisneros said it’s important to confront and change the culture that allows for this kind of behavior.
“Mr. Kremen has not apologized or acknowledged the impact of his misconduct,” Cisneros told San José Spotlight. “I believe that if someone uses their position to harass, intimidate or abuse people, that we all have to hold them accountable. Mr. Kremen should resign from all public service positions immediately.”
A couple candidates in county elections have called for Kremen to resign, including Sajid Khan, who is running for Santa Clara County district attorney. Khan told San José Spotlight he’s spoken with the former staffer and thanked them for their courage for coming forward.
“I steadfastly stand with them and all survivors of sexual and gender based violence and harassment,” Khan said, adding it’s critical to root out toxic conduct in the public sector by mandating trainings and programs for elected officials. “Mr. Kremen should apologize for his harmful behavior, step away from public life to reflect and seek out interventions to address his hurtful conduct.”
Kremen is a significant donor for the Democratic party in Santa Clara County, contributing to candidates and clubs. Santa Clara County Democratic Party Chair Bill James told San José Spotlight the party agrees with Kremen’s decision to end his campaign for assessor. James did not immediately respond to a question about whether the party believes Kremen should resign from the Valley Water board.
It’s unclear what steps Valley Water’s board of directors will take on this matter. A spokesperson for the board did not immediately provide a response. Board member Richard Santos told San José Spotlight the board has received messages from the public asking what will happen.
“The best thing to do is come to the board and have a meeting and discuss what we want to do, and take the action that is necessary for everybody involved,” Santos said, adding that we live in a democracy with procedures and no one should jump the gun.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected]osespotlight.com or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.
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