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GM Brenda Barnette Sends ‘Adults-only’ Events Invite to Los Angeles Animal Services Staff via City Email

ANIMAL WATCH-Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette found time between saving Pit Bulls and feral cats on January 29, 2020, to send out an invitation from her official City email, to her entire staff, including Animal Control Officers, Animal Care Technicians, etc., which begins with this personal message: 

‘Single and want to meet other animal lovers, here's a chance for you!’ 

That "chance" is described in the forwarded email below from J.J. Rawlinson. (J.J. Rawlinson, DVM, Senior Manager, Community Partnerships & Welfare Initiatives at Wallis Annenberg PetSpace.)

CityWatch readers may recall that, on August 21, Councilman Paul Koretz' Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee approved a $100,000 donation for LA Animal Services from Annenberg Foundation. GM Barnette testified that Annenberg had also donated $50,000 in 2018. 

Also, around that time, brightly colored flyers for Annenberg PetSpace events were being included with renewal notices sent out by LA Animal Services to dog-license holders throughout the City of Los Angeles. 

Here's the email from ‘J.J. Rawlinson,’ forwarded to <all-ani@lacity.org> from <brenda.barnette@lacity.org> on January 29, 2020: 

Subject:  Please come and share!! 

Hello friends, 

May I ask a favor to share these super cool adult only events we have coming up in the next two weeks with your staff? 

The first is Must Love Dogs: A Singles Mixer which is going to be super fun. Tito's vodka, animal lovers, and a whole bunch of gifts and yummy stuff. We highly encourage [sic] that they may want to come as we have a great female turnout/RSVP list so far! The event is LCBTQ [sic] inclusive and we are hoping to increase the number of single men who RSVP to the event so spread the news accordingly. Here's the link for more details. 

Then on Valentine's Day, our very own Donna Fernandes is doing an [sic] cool talk on Animal Love, Courtship, and mating in the animal world called The Mating Game. It is going to be super fun (I have to keep telling her to keep it PG!!). . .wine and refreshments included. There will be games and activities. Here's the link for that one. 

Oh and lastly we are having a tailgate Yappy Hour party tomorrow night. Free drinks, fun games, football and animal theme, lots of yummy food, photo ops, and good company! Come one come all! 

Let me know if you have any questions and please spread the word for us! 

Thanks, 

J.J

 

HERE'S A DESCRIPTION OF THE EVENT FROM THE WEB: 

Must Love Dogs: A Singles Mixer is a free speed-dating event for dog-loving daters at Wallis Annenberg PetSpace. The free event will be held on Thursday, February 6 from 6-9pm with a cocktail hour and speed dating session available to all guests.

 

LAAS EMPLOYEES ‘SPREAD THE WORD’ 

Numerous LAAS employees expressed shock. Some said this was "totally inappropriate."  Some were angry, because it seemed Brenda Barnette was trying to encourage them to accept an invitation to a "speed-date" or "hook-up" party. Others said they were upset that the GM of the department didn't realize many (or most) of her employees are married with families. 

Others questioned why it was specifically indicated that this event was "LGBTQ inclusive," because, if this is just a "singles mixer" by Annenberg, why would this need to be mentioned? 

(Note: While working in San Francisco as a program-development director for the SPCA, Ms. Barnette also served as President of the Board for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center Project, according to Friends of 1800.org.) 

WAS THIS ‘CYBER-HARASSMENT?’     

Several called it "sexual harassment" because the announcement was sent by their boss, knowing they would feel obliged to open it. 

(Legal experts debate a legal concept known as the “captive audience doctrine” -- which takes into account the extent to which a person can flee, or is “captive” -- as the most viable theory to justify regulating cyber-harassment within the bounds of the First Amendment.) 

IS A FEMALE GM UNDER DIFFERENT CITY RULES THAN A MALE? 

What in the world was LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette thinking? If she were male LAPD Chief Michel Moore, or LA City Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, or Tony Royster, GM of General Services Department, would she still have a job after sending out this titillating invitation to all employees to meet up at a "Singles Mixer" which, among its other enticements, announces first there will be Tito's vodka

Would the LA Times ignore Council President Herb Wesson inviting his staff to The Mating Game talk, where wine is provided, and they can apparently learn how animals engage in sexual arousal and copulation? (Animal mating is not romantic!) 

Or, what if Ron Nichols, the male GM of the Department of Water and Power, sent an official email inviting his employees to an ADULT-ONLY "tailgate Yappy Hour party with free drinks, fun games, football and. . .good company?" 

REMEMBER THE ANDREW ADELMAN SEX-TOY CASE? 

On Sept. 23, 2009, LA Weekly wrote that Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s office confirmed to the LA Weekly that it was formally reviewing sex-toy rape allegations against a top city official. 

The article stated that this announcement followed a two-month investigation by LAPD of an alleged situation with no real evidence or eyewitnesses and a "he said, she said" case. However, Adelman "was pressured to resign."  (On Oct. 9, the LA Times, wrote,

that prosecutors declined to file charges in the case.) 

The alleged incident occurred when Adelman met a woman at a "July 11 pub crawl organized by a staffer to a Los Angeles City Council member," according to the LA Weekly.  

This is a reminder of why city officials should not encourage offsite social encounters with alcohol involved. 

ED BOKS AND ‘HOOTERS’ 

Former LA Animal Services' GM Ed Boks resigned shortly after public and political outrage criticizing him for merely agreeing to accept a donation from "Hooters" restaurant chain which would be generated by a bikini contest fundraiser for spay/neuter of city pets. The event was called "Hooters for Neuters," and Hooters was a known donor to charities and animal shelters. 

"It certainly was not my intention to offend anyone," Boks said in a statement. A promotional flier posted on the LAAS website first showed a woman in a bikini and then was changed to a dog wearing a "Hooters for Neuters" t-shirt.  

City officials' criticism of the proposed event was believed to be an important factor in Boks' resignation in 2009. (The Mayor Sam's 'Sister City' blog provides a lively discussion of the melee on "City of Hooters?") 

WILL CITY OFFICIALS OVERLOOK GM BARNETTE'S ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ EMAIL? 

There is nothing wrong with an animal-lovers' speed-dating party -- if you're into that type of thing -- but, shouldn't GM Brenda Barnette, who is paid $314,000 per year to make sound decisions be held responsible for better judgment and discretionary acts in regard to distributing sexual innuendo in the workplace? 

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.