Parking Authority boss ticketed after sexual harassment investigation

Vince Fenerty Jr., the Philadelphia Parking Authority's executive director, had to repay the authority $30,000 to foot the bill of an independent investigation into his allegedly sexual harassment of an employee.

What does it take to keep your job after sexually harassing your employee for two years?

Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, can answer that question.

For Fenerty, it took $30,000 - to foot the bill of an independent investigation into his inappropriate behavior. After being reprimanded by the authority's board for a sexual harassment campaign against a senior employee last year, he was also curbed of the power to carry out the responsibilities he was hired to do.

Fenerty, who is paid $223,000 a year to run the $245 million agency, is no longer allowed to go on overnight work trips with other employees without permission from his board. To spend the night, he must submit a list of who else is going.

The sexual harassment complaint against Fenerty, 60, was outlined in PPA documents obtained by the Inquirer.

It's not pleasant reading.

In a July 2015 letter, the agency's six-member board notified Fenerty that an independent investigation had determined that he had sexually harassed a woman who is a senior director at the authority.

The woman filed a complaint with the PPA's human resources department. She did not file a lawsuit or seek any financial settlement. I am not naming her here.

According to the letter, she alleged that Fenerty had "engaged in a series of unwanted and repeatedly discouraged sexual advances," including "inappropriate touching and other untoward, unprofessional conduct."

The harassment occurred during work hours and work-related events, the complaint alleged.

The authority hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation.

"The investigator determined, based on your admitted conduct, that you have engaged in sexual harassment . . . and otherwise engage in unacceptable behavior in the workplace," the letter notified Fenerty.

"You abused your power," it read.

Yes, he did.

Instead of firing Fenerty, the board considered "the findings of the investigation" and Fenerty's "acknowledgment of impropriety and commitment to prevent a reoccurrence," and his "many, many years of exemplary service."

Fenerty, who is also a Republican ward leader, has worked at the authority since 1983 and served as its executive director since 2005.

His board laid out a long list of conditions that restrict Fenerty as he performs crucial functions of his job, all to ensure that he doesn't harass anyone else.

Fenerty can no longer hire, fire, promote, transfer or hand out raises to upper-level employees on his own - which is no small thing in a patronage mill.

He can make personnel suggestions, but the board created a three-person human relations committee to sign off on all those decisions.

He must attend psychological and behavioral counseling on appropriate workplace behavior with an emphasis on sexual harassment awareness and anger management. (He has to pay for that, too.)

The board even revised the authority's workplace policies with new language spelling out what's inappropriate in a workplace, the types of boundaries children learn when they're still in short pants.

"Under no circumstances should you ever kiss, caress, hug, massage or otherwise engage in personal physical conduct with an Authority employee," the new language reads. "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."

Fenerty wouldn't talk. Neither would the woman. The agency spokesman, Martin O'Rourke, wouldn't get on the phone. He wrote in a statement that the PPA handles internal complaints confidentially and is prohibited from discussing personnel matters.

This isn't a personnel matter.

Not when the head of an 1,111-person state agency sexually harasses an employee for two years. Not when taxpayers are paying someone a lot of money to run a large, powerful institution. Not when that someone needs it spelled out that he shouldn't put his hands on his employees or otherwise act like a lewd fool. Not when that person is now essentially reduced to a manager who can't manage.

Not when he can make it all go away with $30,000.

mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759

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