Parking boss resigns over scandal — and he has a big pension coming

Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, at a meeting Tuesday with other board members at PPA headquarters in Center City. He resigned from his position Wednesday.

The head of the Philadelphia Parking Authority resigned Wednesday after two sexual-harassment scandals and mounting criticism of how the agency handled the complaints.

Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., 60, submitted his resignation to the PPA board 33 years into his career and a day before he was expected to be fired. He stands to collect an estimated $154,620-a-year pension.

Fenerty was accused of sexually harassing two coworkers, one in the early 2000s and another around 2014.

Until this week, PPA board members said they knew only of the more recent accusation, which proved to be true and led to an initial decision to keep Fenerty in his $223,000-a-year job, but with reduced authority. Upon learning of the earlier accusation this week from Inquirer columnist Mike Newall, the PPA moved quickly to suspend Fenerty with an intent to dismiss.

But questions remain over who knew what when.

Dennis G. Weldon Jr., general counsel for the agency, had knowledge of both complaints, according to documents obtained by the Inquirer.

Several members of the agency's board then and now say they were never told by Weldon or anyone else about the prior case.

Weldon did not respond to calls to his office for comment.

"I recall asking - on several occasions - if Fenerty had any record of similar complaints in his HR file, and the answer was no," said board member and City Commissioner Al Schmidt.

Chairman Joseph T. Ashdale said Tuesday that the earlier case never made its way into Fenerty's human resources file.

City Councilman Al Taubenberger, a board member since 2001, said he was "deeply troubled" by the omission.

"I intend to find out if PPA's general counsel knew about the prior charge against Fenerty and, if he did, why he didn't bring it to the board's attention during our recent deliberations over Fenerty's fate," Taubenberger said in a text message from Germany, where he is on a trade mission.

Weldon's past knowledge becomes important in light of the board's response to the more recent accusations against Fenerty.

An independent investigator retained by the Parking Authority last year found that Fenerty had sexually harassed a senior director at the agency.

That was almost a decade after Weldon played a role in handling a 2006 complaint against Fenerty by another Parking Authority employee.

That woman reported that Fenerty, at various times, licked her ear, pulled down her blouse to reveal her cleavage, unhooked her bra at a party, and made inappropriate comments to her.

The woman prepared a complaint for the state Human Relations Commission but agreed to mediation with her attorneys and the PPA before it was filed.

Weldon is copied on the terms of the mediation in a February 2007 letter from the woman's attorney.

The PPA offered the woman a $150,000 settlement, according to documents. She turned the money down and went back to work.

Mike Cibik, a Republican ward leader and PPA board member from 2002 to 2010, said the board was never informed of the sexual harassment allegations against Fenerty in 2006.

"No way, I just don't remember anything like that," Cibik said. "That would be something the board should have been informed of."

Cibik said he was surprised the topic was not raised with the board given the size of the proposed settlement and a general requirement that the board approve contracts and payments of more than $25,000.

"That's not chump change, and it's not only the money amount but the nature of the contract, the allegations," Cibik said.

Cibik said the board met only once a month and would get agendas delivered late at night or early before meetings. "We were kept in the dark on a lot," he said.

Weldon's role surprised Cibik, though.

"He is one of the most honorable guys I know," he said. "I would be shocked, but then I would say, he is general counsel, so he would be in a position to know."

Fenerty, a Republican leader in the 18th Ward in Kensington as well as the 31st Ward, had been the authority's executive director since 2005.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Fenerty said, "I just decided I wish to resign at this time. On advice of counsel, I was asked not to say anything more."

Fenerty declined to answer any questions. "I will be a private citizen now," he said.

Fenerty's pension - estimated to be $154,620 a year - would be the highest of any retiree in the city's retirement system, according to data from the city's Board of Pensions and Retirement. The payment is based on 33 years of employment, and Fenerty can begin collecting immediately.

jterruso@phillynews.com

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