Gary Kremen is temporarily stepping down as chair of the Valley Water board of directors, following an exclusive report by this news organization about allegations of inappropriate behavior made by a former campaign staffer.
In an internal statement obtained by San José Spotlight, Kremen asks the water board’s ethics committee to conduct an independent investigation to determine if any allegations of illegal sexual harassment have occurred with Valley Water employees.
Kremen said he would step down as chair of the board for 60 days to preserve the integrity of the investigation, although he will remain on the board. He is asking board member John Varela to serve as chair in the interim. Kremen is asking the board to consider his proposals at a March 22 meeting.
He said he’s taking these steps to assure residents sexual harassment is not happening at Valley Water, following accusations of inappropriate behavior from a former staffer on his assessor campaign, including sharing partially nude photos in a work-related Dropbox. Kremen has refused to quit his post at Valley Water despite dropping out of the assessor race and facing a number of calls for resignation from elected officials and local leaders.
He said in his statement to the board the photos were included by accident in a bulk upload to Dropbox. He said the photos are non-sexual and that the staffer invaded his privacy by showing them to the media.
“My partner and I are confident that as the truth comes to light, the public’s trust in me will be restored. In the meantime, I ask for everyone’s patience,” Kremen wrote in the internal statement.
Kremen did not respond to a request for comment. He is the founder of dating site Match.com and a major political donor in Silicon Valley. Voters first elected him to the Valley Water board in 2014.
Valley Water sources told San José Spotlight there have been more than a dozen internal employee complaints about Kremen. One recent complaint reviewed by this news organization accused Kremen of mistreating workers.
“Chair Kremen’s bullying treatment of staff at board meetings and in face-to-face interactions has already torpedoed morale across the organization,” the complaint reads. “Make no mistake that the new allegations against him will erode any remaining confidence in his leadership.”
Asked about the complaints and investigation, Valley Water spokesperson Matt Keller referred San José Spotlight to Kremen’s statement.
Last weekend, Kremen dropped out of the race for Santa Clara County assessor after a former staffer claimed he shared partially nude photos of himself and his long-time partner, Essy Stone, in a Dropbox used by the campaign. The staffer said they were uncomfortable with the photos and Kremen refused to remove them. The staffer also alleged Kremen threatened to ruin a local political club they were both members of because he was upset about a resolution the club was planning to approve.
Kremen has denied all wrongdoing.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Valley Water CEO Rick Callender is on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.
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