Mayor Kenney has quietly removed a charter-school executive from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations after a report that his company paid a six-figure settlement to a female coworker who had accused him of sexual harassment and retaliation.
Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the mayor notified Alfredo Calderon, president and CEO of ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, that he was being replaced Thursday, a day after Fox29 reported on the $350,000 settlement that the charter operator's insurance company paid Evelyn Nunez, ASPIRA's former chief academic officer.
"We had already decided to remove him because his busy schedule often required him to miss meetings, but this report obviously hastened that process," Hitt said late Monday.
Hitt said Tuesday that she was mistaken about his removal being related to the report of the settlement, and that the timing was "just a coincidence."
Calderon was appointed to the Human Relations Commission by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2012. Calderon is still listed as a member on the commission's website, which states that its mission is to "enforce the City's laws prohibiting discrimination, to promote equal rights and opportunities of all Philadelphians, and to advance community relations across differences such as race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation."
Fox29 on Wednesday reported that Nunez, now the principal of Lewis Elkin Elementary, has filed a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She alleges she was demoted in August 2012 because she "rejected the ongoing sexual advances" of Calderon and "refused to allow him to talk about his ongoing sexual conquests of teachers, students and parents," among other reasons.
Nunez said in the complaint that she was retaliated against after she reported some of Calderon's alleged behavior to ASPIRA's board.
In February 2013, Fox29 reported, Nunez sued ASPIRA under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which led to the $350,000 payment by ASPIRA's insurance provider, National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh.
Kenney has not announced who will replace Calderon on the nine-member Human Relations Commission.
ASPIRA spokesman Kevin Feeley said in a statement that Calderon has "worked hard to promote fairness and dignity in the workplace and in his North Philadelphia community."
"He serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, and he has understood for some time that he and other members likely would be replaced when the Mayor chose to do so," Feeley said. "While he is legally prohibited from discussing the allegations, the reality is that under Alfredo's leadership, ASPIRA has hired women in key leadership positions throughout the organization, and it has established a strict no-tolerance policy with respect to discrimination of any kind."
But Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who served as ASPIRA's executive director from 1996 to 2000, said she has fielded complaints from other female ASPIRA workers who said Calderon had harassed them. They were not willing to come forward, fearing retaliation, she said. Most have left the company.
"The fact of the matter is he should just go. You have to do some rebuilding over there," Sánchez said, referring to the Calderon harassment allegations and ASPIRA's finances.
ASPIRA operates four charter schools in Philadelphia, including Olney Charter High School. Those four schools, overseen by the School Reform Commission, had 3,759 students enrolled in 2015-16, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. It also operates ASPIRA Bilingual Cyber Charter School, which enrolls students from across the state and is overseen by the state Department of Education.
The School Reform Commission is expected to vote Thursday on whether to renew ASPIRA's contract at Olney Charter High School and John B. Stetson Charter School.