Despite an independent probe into alleged inappropriate behavior toward one of his employees, Philadelphia Parking Authority Executive Director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. will remain at his post, and continue earning his $223,000 annual salary.
A sexual harassment complaint filed by a senior director at the agency accused Fenerty, 60, of engaging in "a series of unwanted and repeatedly discouraged sexual advances," over the course of two years, according to a July 2015 letter from the PPA to Fenerty, obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The director further accuses Fenerty of "inappropriate touching and other untoward, unprofessional conduct," the letter states.
The Inquirer did not publish the accuser's name, but she alleged the behavior occurred at work and workplace events.
An external law firm hired by the authority conducted the investigation and informed Fenerty of its findings.
"The investigator determined, based on your admitted conduct, that you have engaged in sexual harassment … and otherwise engaged in unacceptable behavior in the workplace," a letter from the firm told Fenerty.
The newspaper further reports that Fenerty will remain in his job. He had to foot the $30,000 bill of the private investigation and much of his responsibility has been curbed by the agency's board:
- Fenerty can no longer hire, fire, promote, transfer or give raises to upper-level employees; he can offer recommendations, but a human-relations committee created by the board must sign off on all decisions.
- He must attend psychological and behavioral counseling on appropriate workplace behavior, which he'll be paying for.
- He's no longer permitted to go on overnight work trips with other employees without board permission, and must submit a list of all those attending the trip in order to spend the night.
The agency also modified its workplace policies regarding what's considered inappropriate behavior:
"Under no circumstances should you ever kiss, caress, hug, massage or otherwise engage in personal physical conduct with an Authority employee … You shall not comment on the personal appearance of an Authority employee … You may not engage in intimate personal conversations of a sexual nature with an Authority employee."
According to the Inquirer, the employee who filed the complaint against Fenerty did not pursue a lawsuit or financial settlement.
Fenerty has been with the PPA since 1983, and served as its executive director since 2005.
Since news broke of Fenerty's investigation, the chair of the Philadelphia Commission for Women, Felicia Harris, has called on Fenerty to step down from his position.
"There is no question that Vince Fenerty’s behavior disqualifies him from leading a major state agency, a fact all but acknowledged by the board when they stripped him of most of his professional responsibilities last year," Harris said in a statement.
"His continued employment sends the message that sexual harassment is OK, and that the harm caused can be erased by monetary payment. Sexual harassment can’t be written off like a parking fine.
"This offense has a long lasting impact on the victim, whose privacy we hope all respect, and on all women who work at the PPA, who now know that their workplace is not a safe environment. Finally, this decision sends the wrong message to women everywhere that there are not serious consequences for very disturbing actions."