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St. Pete Deputy Mayor resigns following allegations

Veronica Brezina



St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owens. City of St. Petersburg photo.

St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Stephanie Owens is resigning after allegations surfaced claiming she is creating a “culture of bullying.” 

Her last day in the role will be Sept. 9. 

She submitted her resignation letter after St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch notified city staff earlier today (Sept. 2) that he was placing Owens on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation.

The administrative leave action followed Communications Director Janelle Irwin Taylor’s sudden departure on Thursday. In a resignation letter from Irwin Taylor, she stated there was a “hostile work environment, lack of communication or guidance and overall culture of bullying, all related to my direct supervisor, were not adequately addressed, and thus warrant my immediate departure from this administration.” 

Welch tapped Irwin Taylor as the communications director as one of the key members of his administration when he took office. 

“I am grateful to Mayor Welch for taking this situation seriously and ensuring adequate investigation. I am hopeful these events will begin a process of healing and growth,” Irwin Taylor shared in a statement to the St. Pete Catalyst. 

In Owens’ resignation letter to the city, she wrote, “It has been one of my greatest honors to serve the people of St. Petersburg as your Deputy Mayor. My life’s work centers on developing policies and opportunities to help the government work for her people. Recent events distract from our impactful and intentional work to move our great city forward, and therefore I resign in the spirit of progress.” 

However, Irwin Taylor’s allegation regarding Owens’ behavior is not the first reported incident. 

In a confidential letter, obtained by Florida Politics (Irwin Taylor’s former employer), several members of Welch’s 2021 campaign team wrote that under Owens’ leadership for the campaign, “the campaign internally has devolved into a toxic work environment that has taken form in instances of aggression, rudeness, deception, deep unprofessionalism and a general negativity to people both inside and outside of the campaign.

“The letter does not speak for any one person’s experience. Rather, it validates that our experiences are shared,” the letter concluded. 

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  1. Avatar

    Angela Wilson

    September 2, 2022at3:14 pm

    It is odd to me that the very woman who took the task of revitalizing Ken Welch’s sagging campaign momentum, has not been respected ,supported or treated professionally. New administrations are known to have problems but it seems a tad wreckless to demean a person with out trying to resolve it behind doors. I expect better out of the Welch administration. In the political world you do not attempt to burn the house down by writing letters to air your emotions with staff as you leave. I think the Communications Director and The Mayor owes the deputy Mayor an apology.

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    September 2, 2022at3:36 pm

    More than one person complained about the environment allegedly created by Mrs Owens. If it ws not true, I believe Mrs Owens would defend herself. Other employees still need to be interviewed for training needs.

  3. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    September 2, 2022at6:34 pm

    St Pete is a wonderful city despite its continued mismanagement. Whether it’s administrators bullying employees, the planning department issuing variances that do not meet the standards for variances contained within the zoning code, or the new mayor restarting the RFP process for the Trop, St Pete deserves better.

  4. Avatar

    Jared Klein

    September 3, 2022at5:08 pm

    I hope this uncovers the gross mismanagement happening in city hall right now and the rampant conflict of interests that the mayor is allowing. Let’s start with Welch’s appointment of the CBA co-chair, Gypsy Gallardo. Gallardo is an “activist” who is officially head of the Sankofa development project (conflict #1), a self-proclaimed journalist (conflict #2), and who hides that her hands are inside the Trop RFP Sugar Hill cookie jar but she verbally admits JMA Ventures pays her (conflict #3).

    I never thought I’d say this but I miss Kriseman.

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