History of Sexual Harassment No Barriers to Government Work for Some City Workers

This article was originally published on through THE CITY.

Records obtained by LA VILLE show that employees remain on the payroll after they have been found responsible for misconduct at work, including when dismissal has been recommended.

The allegations against Charles Meierdiercks, then an employee of the Parks Department, were troubling.

In a closed shed in a Brooklyn park, he told a subordinate that he was feeling excited, started to indulge himself and asked if she wanted to participate, according to the woman.

Within months, Parks investigators corroborated the allegations of sexual harassment against Meierdiercks, according to city documents.

The subordinate, who told THE CITY that she felt uncomfortable at work after the alleged incident in March 2015 because her colleagues seemed aware, left her relatively new post in June, even as she she lived in a homeless shelter with her son.

Two months later, before authorities could fire Meierdiercks, he resigned, records provided by the Department of Parks and Recreation show.

But online payroll records show Meierdiercks was hired in July of the following year by the city’s sanitation department, where he has since earned a salary paid by taxpayers.

Sanitation officials said Meierdiercks was hired on a civil service roster and a background check did not reveal any red flags, but noted he also failed to report himself past disciplinary issues as required.

A disturbing model

THE CITY became aware of the allegations against Meierdiercks and other city employees accused of sexual misconduct through a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests filed with New York City government agencies in May 2019, Searching for documents dating back to 2014, the beginning of both Mayor Bill de Blasio’s terms.

Records show that at least half a dozen employees were fired from one agency, only to be hired by another – or simply stayed put even after their agency tried to oust them.

A former Human Resources Administration employee even ran for office on Staten Island earlier this year with the help of $ 124,000 from public funds, just months after retiring amid a charge. disciplinary for sexual harassment.

Other workers in the city received significant raises or promotions in the middle or soon after investigations by Equal Employment Opportunity Agency investigators found that the workers had committed misuse. sexual harassment.

In a case that resulted in the demotion of an emergency medical technician lieutenant – for groping and sexually harassing a reality TV star turned EMT – the disciplined employee was able to reverse his pay cut in just one year by accumulating overtime, according to records.

Years to get records

Disciplinary records obtained by THE CITY for the first time shed light on how allegations of sexual misconduct are investigated and handled in city agencies.

THE CITY requested documents from the mayor’s office and city council; Administration of children’s services; Department of City Administrative Services and Human Resources Administration; the departments of correction, education, health, parks, design and construction, and environmental protection; and the NYPD and the FDNY.

It took two and a half years before all the agencies bowed to the demands. Several agencies, including the NYPD, DOC and city council, did not provide the names of staff with substantiated cases or information on disciplinary results.

Documents obtained by THE CITY highlight how sexual misconduct can occur anywhere.

In 2018, the city council passed a set of laws that de Blasio signed and said they would increase transparency and accountability on harassment in city government.

But the 2018 legislation did not require the disclosure of information about the results of disciplinary actions against city employees, and that information had remained almost entirely out of public view, until now.

“Many reforms”

Files show multiple cases of agency change in the face of dismissal – including a Department of Design and Construction employee who was fired for a ‘pattern of inappropriate comment and behavior’ in late 2017 , and within a few months was hired by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

No agency has commented on this matter.

Another staff member of the Department of Parks and Recreation who was seasonally employed by the agency was placed on the agency’s “do not hire list” in 2016 for confirmed sexual harassment, according to ministry documents. .

After not working the next two summers, the recreation specialist returned to his seasonal job with the Parks Department in 2018 and 2019, according to online payroll records.

Parks officials said the list is actually a “check-to-hire” list, meaning hiring officials have discretion to employ someone on the list.

They said it contained more than 11,000 names, mostly seasonal workers with time and leave issues, but also 42 staff with cases of alleged sexual harassment.

Asked about the rehiring of the sacked workers, city hall officials said they only introduced new guidelines last year, in January, which for the first time required agencies to check for violations of the law against harassment or discrimination by potential hires that were transferred between city agencies.

Angelina Pivarnick attends WEtv’s premier fashion event celebrating the return of “Bridezillas” on March 13, 2019.
Photo courtesy of THE CITY

“Do not rehire”

Records obtained by LA VILLE show that confirmed cases of sexual harassment can go largely unpunished, either through relatively light disciplinary measures or through the resignation of a municipal employee.

Former HRA staff analyst Brandon Stradford has run for office twice since the agency substantiated an allegation of sexual harassment against him in May 2019 – and in a race he received assistance considerable taxpayer dollars.

Stradford participated in the Democratic primary against State Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island / Brooklyn) in June 2020, six months after her last day on the job at the HRA.

He followed up that losing race with an offer to become president of the Staten Island Borough this year.

The confirmed allegation of sexual harassment against him at HRA has not been reported before and has not been raised during either candidacy for elected office.

Although the nature of this harassment cannot be deduced from the documents provided by the HRA, officials said he faced a relatively light one-day suspension.

Stradford did not respond to a voicemail or text message requesting comment.

‘Jersey Shore’ star harassed

In a case that garnered much media attention, FDNY emergency medical technician Jonathan Schechter was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit by former “Jersey Shore” reality star Angelina Pivarnick in 2019 , which the city settled for $ 350,000 last year.

The federal file included a claim by Pivarnick that Schechter, one of his EMT supervisors, grabbed and squeezed his buttocks in a parking lot outside the Staten Island EMS station, “putting his hand so low that it also came into contact with her vaginal area.

The complaint indicates that later that same day, in May 2018, Schechter texted him: “That’s a—! If only you knew the thoughts in my mind.

Schechter’s punishment, which has not been reported previously, was a demotion from lieutenant to paramedic.

But records show his ability to earn overtime was not hampered, to the point that after his demotion his take-home pay dropped by $ 13,000, Schechter increased it by $ 30,000 the following year. .

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