Since Tuesday, the Philadelphia Parking Authority board had contended that it was never notified of a 2006 sexual harassment complaint against the authority's then-executive director, Vincent J. Fenerty Jr.
On Thursday, the board reversed itself. It had been told in 2006, according to a spokesman, but forgot.
Dennis G. Weldon, the agency's top attorney, told all six board members when the allegations were made, PPA spokesman Marty O'Rourke said.
"He notified the board as a whole. The board was aware of this. But the complaint was filed and it was withdrawn within three months," O'Rourke said. "Eight, nine years later, people had no memory of the case because then it's 2015."
The reversal is a critical readjustment of the board's narrative as to how it came to allow Fenerty to keep his $223,000-a-year post when a second subordinate came forward in 2014 to charge him with sexual harassment.
According to two board members - City Councilman Al Taubenberger and City Commissioner Al Schmidt - the absence of any previous complaints against Fenerty persuaded them to vote to not dismiss him. (Taubenberger was on the board in 2006; Schmidt is one of two current members who was not.)
That situation changed Monday when Inquirer columnist Mike Newall notified the board that he had learned of the 2006 complaint and was preparing to write about it. Fenerty was suspended before resigning Wednesday.
On Thursday, before acknowledging it had been made aware of the previous complaint against Fenerty, the board named two interim replacements to run the authority.
Corrine O'Connor and Richard Dickson, both current deputy directors, will colead the PPA until a permanent replacement can be found.
Dickson was briefly suspended from the agency in 2004, when he was arrested and charged with drunken driving while in a PPA-issued vehicle.
Dickson, then head of on-street parking for the agency, backed a white 2000 Ford into two parked cars, police said.
O'Rourke said Dickson was a first-time offender who completed a diversionary program.
"It was 12 years ago, and he's a highly respected professional, if not expert, on parking," O'Rourke said. "He's very capable, well-respected, and the board is confident in his abilities to perform during this transition period."
O'Rourke later acknowledged the prior notification of the 2006 complaint. He did so in response to questions as to whether Weldon might be sanctioned for not telling the board of the allegations.
Weldon's knowledge of the 2006 complaint was evident from a mediation agreement drawn up at the time that was copied to him.
In explaining the lack of recollection of the 2006 incident, O'Rourke said: "It was no longer in people's memory because the case was withdrawn, and generally when cases are withdrawn, there was no merit to them."
The woman was offered a $150,000 settlement by the PPA but declined to take the money.
O'Rourke did not respond to questions as to whether Weldon forgot about the 2006 incident as well.
Through a spokesman, Taubenberger, who is in Germany, stood by his assertion that the board was never told.
"Absolutely not. He had no knowledge of any prior incidents," said Frank Keel. "Had he [known], he would have never voted to retain" Fenerty.
"He had no recollection, no knowledge of any prior incident."
Asked if perhaps Taubenberger simply forgot about it, Keel said, "I find it hard to believe."
Attempts to reach the board's chairman, Joseph T. Ashdale, for comment were unsuccessful.
On Tuesday, he issued a carefully worded statement saying the 2006 complaint "was not filed with our human resources department. It should have been part of the information used in making the decision to permit Mr. Fenerty to remain in his position."
That statement falls short of a clear claim that the board was not told of the complaint.
At a meeting Thursday morning announcing revisions to the agency's sexual harassment policies, Ashdale said: "I want to add particularly to our female employees that we will not forget what happened to these employees."
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday said he wanted his agency to audit the PPA. But the state law that authorizes the PPA gives that power to the state Attorney General's Office.
DePasquale's agency could conduct an audit if the PPA invited it to do so. Or the Attorney General's Office could deputize his office to conduct an audit.
DePasquale said he contacted the Attorney General's Office after the PPA sexual harassment scandal went public to discuss his agency's getting involved.
"We were clear that this is something I have an interest in," DePasquale said. "Somebody, whether it be the attorney general or me, someone independent, should do an audit. That is important, regardless of who it is."
At City Council, the scandal has revived a long-stalled effort by some of the members to press for an audit. Councilman David Oh un-tabled a resolution calling on the city controller to audit the agency. It failed when called for a vote, with only five members voting in support: Oh, Helen Gym, Mark Squilla, Cindy Bass, and Allan Domb.
Councilman William K. Greenlee, explaining his dissenting vote, said the authority is already audited annually. Gym and Oh have said those financial audits are not as thorough as the performance and management audit they seek.
Controller Alan Butkovitz, who could take up an audit of the authority without Council's urging, said he was hesitant to do so without more direction on the review's scope, saying a financial audit could cost $30,000 and a more in-depth probe like the kind being sought by Oh could top out at $1 million.
"Every single Council person I talk to has a different idea of the audit," Butkovitz said. "We're happy to do the audit, but they have to get in agreement on the scope and resources."
O'Rourke said the PPA welcomes an audit. "The books are open, they're audited every year by an outside firm. If people want to do an audit, they're welcome to do an audit."