St. Pete deputy mayor resigns following bullying allegations

After the city’s communications director resigned Thursday – citing a hostile work environment – the mayor of St. Pete put his Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owens on administrative leave. Soon after, the city announced Owens had resigned.

Communications Director Janelle Taylor alleged in her resignation letter, published by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, there was a "hostile work environment, lack of communication or guidance and overall culture of bullying, all related to my direct supervisor," which is deputy mayor Stephanie Owens.

Taylor said her concerns were disclosed and discussed on Aug. 30, and she said they were "not adequately addressed." She resigned Thursday.

By Friday, Mayor Ken Welch placed Owens on administrative leave.

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In an email to city staff, he said the concerns are being reviewed and investigated.

Left: Former St. Petersburg Communications Director Janelle I Taylor; Right: Former St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owens

"Please be assured that our governing principles set a high standard for civility and professionalism, and they will be upheld," Welch wrote. "If you experience any situation that you believe may violate our city policies on professional and ethical behavior, please notify your supervisor or the Human Resources department. We will continue to move forward."

In a news release Friday, the city's spokesperson said, in part:

When Mayor Welch became aware of the issue he contacted Human Resources to begin a thorough review and placed Deputy Mayor Owens on administrative leave.

In light of Owens' resignation there is no longer a need for an internal review. However, Mayor Welch has asked the Human Resources team to develop additional initiatives to educate employees on their rights and protections and foster workplace civility and professionalism throughout the city.

Mayor Welch will address how the city will move forward at a press conference next week.