It was outrageous enough that for years the Philadelphia Parking Authority has been run by a serial sexual harasser in Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. But the complete failure of the Parking Authority's board to confront Fenerty's disgusting actions at multiple turns raises broader questions about the oversight of the $245 million agency.
This is clearly a gang that can't shoot straight.
The sooner the Parking Authority board is replaced, the better off its employees and taxpayers will be. The board has mismanaged Fenerty's abuse of power from start to finish. Instead of putting a stop to Fenerty's years-long lechery at the first hint of trouble, the board helped to cover it up.
It was only after Inquirer columnist Mike Newall first reported that Fenerty had sexually harassed a female employee for years that the board woke up. Even then, Chairman Joseph T. Ashdale declared Fenerty would keep his job. Another board member, City Councilman Al Taubenberger, minimized Fenerty's harassment as "high school puppy love."
Taubenberger quickly backpedaled from his statement. But no amount of sensitivity training is likely to help dinosaurs who think and talk like that. Ashdale and Taubenberger have disgraced the agency they supposedly represent. For the good of the PPA, they need to slink off with Fenerty, who resigned with his $154,000 annual pension intact.
The rest of the board - which includes City Commissioner Al Schmidt, attorney Andrew Stutzman, accountant Russell Wagner, and optometrist Karen W. Wrigley - has been just as complicit in their silence and should also step down.
Indeed, as recently as last week the board was prepared to stand by Fenerty - just as it did in 2015, after he admitted to harassing a woman for two years. It was only after yet another column by Newall last week disclosed that a second woman had reported being sexually harassed in 2006 that the board moved to fire Fenerty.
The second woman had accused Fenerty of sexually harassing her for several years, starting in 2002. She said he once pulled her shirt in an attempt to expose her breasts; and at a work party, unhooked her bra. Another time, he sat on her lap and stuck his tongue in her ear.
At first, the board claimed it was not aware of the 2006 complaint even though the PPA had offered to pay the woman $150,000, which she declined. But Thursday the board changed its story, saying that by the time the latest harassment allegations were brought to its attention in 2015, board members who were on the panel in 2006 had forgotten about that complaint and the board decided to keep Fenerty in his $223,000-a-year job.
Either the memory-lapse excuse is a fabrication or those board members who were on the panel in 2006 are so incompetent they forgot being told by the authority's attorney that the boss was accused of sticking his tongue in an employee's ear and unhooking her bra.
Either way, the board's ever-shifting response to the harassment scandal shows it can't perform the most basic function of management oversight. If it can't get that right, how can it be trusted to oversee the proper spending of millions of dollars?