Just weeks after avoiding a recall election, Commissioner Nancy Oakley is again facing possible forfeiture of her office — this time because she is being accused of sexually harassing former City Manager Shane Crawford.
The Florida Commission on Ethics issued a probable cause finding last week that Oakley may have violated state law by "exhibiting inappropriate behavior" toward Crawford and other city staff.
Oakley, who insists in the state ethics report that she did no wrong, must now decide whether to pursue a formal public hearing on the charges or negotiate a settlement with the state.
The ethics commission has the power to remove her from office and levy a fine of up to $10,000 per violation.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Oakley could not be reached for comment.
According to "overwhelming testimony" from multiple witnesses, an apparently intoxicated Oakley is alleged to have licked Crawford’s face and touched him inappropriately during the King of the Beach Fishing Tournament in November, 2012.
Just before accosting Crawford, Oakley reportedly said "Don’t ever bring that blond bitch around me again," referring to Crawford’s executive assistant and now wife, Cheryl McGrady, who was with him at the time.
Oakley then grabbed Crawford inappropriately and "slowly lick(ed) him from his Adam’s apple all the way up his face," the investigative report states.
Crawford said he did not report the incident at the time because he was concerned about his job.
The following year Oakley decided not to run for re-election and Crawford dropped the matter.
But when she decided to again run for office in 2017, Crawford filed a formal complaint with the Commission on Ethics.
Several months later, Oakley was re-elected and at her first meeting called for the commission to fire McGrady.
One month later, Oakley joined newly elected Mayor Maggi Black and Commissioner John Douthirt — who had all run for office as a ticket — to suspend Crawford from his position as city manager.
Crawford would later resign to avoid being fired.
Tuesday, Crawford said Oakley’s action against him was a vindictive response to his ethics complaint against her.
"That whole group knew the ethics complaint was pending,’’ Crawford said. "I was wronged and I am not going to sit back and take it any longer."
His treatment by the commission and Oakley has destroyed his career, he said.
Current and former city employees are among the witnesses against Oakley cited in the ethics commission investigative report.
Dave Marsicano, the city’s marina and public works director, witnessed the altercation among Oakley, Crawford and McGrady.
He told the ethics commission investigator Oakley acted similarly toward him, as well, on more than one occasion. Since then, Marsicano said, he avoids Oakley at public events "in fear of unwanted sexual advances."
Tom Verdansky, president of the Old Salt Fishing Foundation that sponsors the King of the Beach events, also witnessed Oakley accosting Crawford.
Verdansky said he, too, had been accosted by Oakley who licked his face and the faces of foundation volunteers at other fishing tournaments.
When questioned by the ethics commission investigator, Robert Malone, Oakley denied ever kissing or licking Crawford.
"She said she and (Crawford) were friends … and would hug and kiss each other on the cheek when greeting each other," Malone reported, adding that Oakley said "any physical contact was done in a friendly, not sexual, manner."
Based on Malone’s report, Melody Hadley, advocate for the Commission on Ethics, concluded that Oakley "acted inappropriately" while serving as a city commissioner.
"There is sufficient evidence to show (Oakley) made unwanted advances toward (Crawford) and/or Marsicano on at least one occasion if not more," Hadley reported, adding that Oakley’s actions caused both Crawford and Marsicano to fear retribution if they complained.