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Second woman says she was sexually harassed by Philly parking boss

At least Philadelphia Parking Authority executive director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. had to pay for the most recent investigation into claims that he sexually harassed an employee.

Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., ousted executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., ousted executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.Read moreClem Murray / File Photograph

At least Philadelphia Parking Authority executive director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. had to pay for the most recent investigation into claims that he sexually harassed an employee.

In 2007, taxpayers nearly paid five times that amount to settle his alleged shenanigans.

As I reported last week, Fenerty forked over $30,000 last year to foot the bill of an investigation that determined he had sexually harassed a senior official at the authority for two years. Instead of firing Fenerty, the authority's six-member board stripped him of considerable power - hiring, firing, demoting, giving raises to senior officials - and forbade him from taking any more overnight trips with employees without a consent letter from them. They let him keep his $223,000 salary, though.

But in 2007, according to documents obtained by the Inquirer, taxpayers came close to funding a $150,000 settlement after another employee accused Fenerty of a three-year sexual harassment campaign. She alleged that he once pulled her shirt away from her body to try to expose her breasts, snuck up behind her and unhooked her bra at a work party and once sat on her lap and stuck his tongue in her ear.

According the complaint, Fenerty tormented the woman with many remarks too disgusting to print. He told her she needed to have more sex, she contended, and once declared that he planned on going home to masturbate.

The PPA offered the woman a $150,000 settlement, according to the documents and the woman's attorney. She turned it down. She told me she liked her job, one she'd eventually be fired from. She also said she felt threatened and feared retribution from Fenerty if she took the settlement.

Fenerty was not available Tuesday for comment.

"Money wasn't important to me," she told me. "What was important to me was trying to do my job and being left alone."

The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, contacted me after reading last Wednesday's column and the news articles that followed. She read how one PPA board member said they knew of no other sexual harassment complaints against Fenerty.

This woman knew that wasn't true.

She'd worked at the authority for nearly 15 years and had attained a supervisory rank when she claimed he began harassing her in 2002.

"Fenerty has subjected the complaint to numerous sexually offensive, lewd and derogatory remarks," according to the suit prepared for the state Human Relations Commission in 2006. The case went to mediation before it was filed.

She claimed Fenerty said things to her that should get any person fired from any job, let alone the official entrusted with running an 1,111-person agency with a $243 million budget.

He allegedly bragged to her of his sexual prowess and made insulting remarks about other women who worked at the authority. She named witnesses.

And when she went to her female supervisor to report the harassment, her supervisor didn't help her, her complaint reads. Instead the supervisor bragged of a sexual relationship with Fenerty.

This is some operation he allegedly ran.

According to a psychological evaluation ordered by her attorney, the harassment left the woman battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Feelings of shame, fear, helplessness and sadness" resulted from Fenerty's alleged sexual harassment, the assessment read.

PPA attorneys met with the woman and her attorney before former Delaware County president judge A. Leo Sereni at a February 2007 mediation.

There the PPA offered the woman and her attorney, Sidney Gold, the $150,000 settlement. As part of the deal, the woman would have to agree to be reassigned to a PPA job at the Philadelphia International Airport, which she considered a sort of Siberia. The woman initially took the offer, but then later turned it down, choosing to go back to work.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Parking Authority Board held a public meeting. Citizen after citizen demanded Fenerty be fired for the recent case of sexual harassment. He said nothing. Board chair Joseph T. Ashdale said they took their investigation "very, very seriously," but decided to keep Fenerty because of his "32 years of employment with no other disciplinary incidents."

He said nothing about the earlier case, or the $150,000 settlement.

Maybe, the agency thinks it can brush off the complaint because the woman was later fired.

She was dismissed in 2009 after the agency complained she had invested money in a business with a PPA contractor who bought impounded cars at an agency auctions she supervised. According to her termination letter, the agency said the woman and the man then planned on reselling the cars at a profit, a potential crime, given her job.

The agency also said the woman had given the man as gifts poems sexual in nature.

"The 'poems' all elaborated upon your prurient want" of the contractor, in "mystifyingly, disgusting ways," the agency wrote.

Tough words given what we're learning about the PPA and sexual harassment.

The woman told me she did give the contractor money for his business, but she wasn't trying to game the agency. She said the emails were a joke.

Unlike with Fenerty, the agency apparently did not consider the woman's many years without "other disciplinary incidents."

She believes she was fired as retaliation.

Later in 2010, she was cited by police for harassment after a run-in with Fenerty at a Somerton Wawa. The woman said she dialed 911, after spotting Fenerty leaving the store, seemingly intoxicated, and getting behind the wheel of his car.

She said police interviewed Fenerty and the woman there, and cited the woman, telling her that Fenerty had told them that she was mad about losing her job.

The case was dismissed.

The woman has not found a new job.

Fenerty, of course, kept his.

Until this afternoon, when I called the PPA for comment on the woman's story.

An hour later, they called me back. Ashdale had changed his mind. Fenerty’s suspended, pending his firing.