How does one deal with a serial sexual harasser running a major city agency?
Let's ask the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Fortunately, its behavior over the last week has provided us with a handy instructional manual.
Turn to page one.
When the public finds out that your executive director has been stripped of substantive power and made to cough up $30K to foot the bill of a two-year sexual-harassment complaint, simply say nothing. Hope against hope that it goes away.
If that doesn't work, find an ill-prepared, talkative board member to dismiss a 60-year-old man's two-year stretch of kissing, inappropriate touching, and other untoward behavior as "puppy love."
Cite your director's otherwise exemplary, unblemished years of service. Stand by your guy.
Congratulations: You and your entire agency have now been met with widespread public ridicule. This places you at a crucial juncture. Pay attention, now.
If a second woman comes forward, alleging even more heinous behavior, dating back a decade, do what you should have 10 years ago: Fire the guy. Wait! Don't actually fire him. That's a little harsh.
Instead, let him resign. Allow him that much. An admitted sexual harasser gets to walk away with a $154,620-a-year pension, the fattest pension of any city government worker and buckets more than the lowly pensioners at the agency who have toiled for years.
Don't worry about how much less that pension prize would have been had you canned him a decade ago.
Hey, he earned that paycheck through countless hours of booting cars, shelling out patronage gigs, and groping women.
Reiterate to the public that you know nothing of this earlier claim. That you shook out that dusty, old human resources file and there was nothing in it at all about these gross allegations. That you never heard of the $150,000 settlement offer to make it all go away. What a shame, but it's all news to you.
If confronted with indisputable evidence that you did know all along - that your general counsel was actually involved in that settlement offer, fall back on this foolproof excuse:
We just forgot.
Forgot that the man who runs a $243 million, 1,111-person agency allegedly unhooked a woman's bra, tried to pull her shirt down, and stuck his tongue in her ear. Again, horrible, but it plain escaped us.
Here's where I would tell you to close that alternative-universe instruction manual and come back to reality. But this is reality, here in the world of the PPA. This is how it has handled a sexual-harassment scandal involving its leader, and it is a disgrace.
What the authority's six-member board, led by its chairman, Joseph T. Ashdale, has made clear in its actions and inactions is now evermore glaring - that this is so much bigger than Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., the now-gone Parking Authority boss, plush with his pension purse.
It's a workplace culture that, in 2016, not only allows sexual harassment, but protects it. An agency that draws terribly insulting lines in the sand: Harassing one woman is OK, but two is a problem.
In its attempt to cover itself with its ever-shifting statements, the PPA has revealed itself.
This is an agency, a patronage sinkhole, really, in desperate need of transparency - of a serious performance and management audit like the one proposed by Councilman David Oh and Councilwoman Helen Gym on Thursday. One with teeth. Shamefully, that measure failed when it could garner only five votes. The state auditor general is talking about taking up that charge. Good. Someone has to.
Let me add a chapter to the PPA board's instruction manual. If you tried all the above - the secrecy, the sexism, the bumbling statements, the desperate obfuscation - there's only one thing left for all of you to do: