Arnold Council Votes Down Acceptance of Harassment Investigation
On a 5-to-3 vote, the Arnold City Council decided against entering into public record the independent investigation on the harassment of a city employee by a councilman.
The Arnold City Council has voted against accepting into public record the independent investigation regarding a city employee's complaint about a hostile work environment.
Susie Boone, Arnold's parks and recreation director, claims she was harassed for more than two years by Ward 4 City Councilman Ken Moss. Boone says the harassment began after Moss' sister was fired from the Parks Department in 2010.
In October, the city hired Protective & Investigative Services to investigate the complaint. The investigation cost Arnold $6,800, according to a spokeswoman from the city's Finance Department.
See previous articles:
- Harassment Claim Has Merit, According to Independent Investigation
- Arnold Employee Files Harassment Complaint Against Councilman
At the last council meeting, the discussion about the investigation began with Ward 3 Councilman Paul Freese making a motion to put an item on the January meeting agenda to censure Moss with provisions which were not discussed.
“The Moss investigation has been conducted, and we’ve all had a chance to review this investigation," Freese said. "There’s three things that we can do. We can do nothing, which isn’t the right thing to do. We can call for impeachment, which would be a public hearing, which I don’t think is our job to do that. That leaves us with one alternative, and that is censure."
Ward 2 Councilman Bill Moritz said he thought the council was getting ahead of itself and felt it needed to acknowledge and accept the investigation as public record. He asked Freese to withdraw his motion, which he did.
Then Moritz made a motion to accept the investigative report into public record. Allison Sweeney, who served as the acting city attorney at the meeting, advised Moss to recuse himself from the vote.
“Last I heard, this was a Boone investigation,” Moss said. “She filed the complaint. It’s an investigation on that, not on me. I will not be recusing my vote.”
The motion failed on a 5-to-3 vote. Moss, Ward 4 Councilwoman Sandra Kownacki, Ward 2 Councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier and Ward 1 Councilwomen Doris Borgelt and Cricky Lang cast the opposing votes.
Borgelt said everything in the report seems like hearsay. She also pointed out that several people who weren't subjects of the investigation were brought into question in the investigation.
"I didn’t see anything in it that was directly said to anyone, except to one employee who was not involved in any charges that were made,” Borgelt said. “I propose that this investigation was a sham.”
Mayor Ron Counts disagreed with Borgelt, saying the investigation was the “correct thing to do for our personnel.”
Kownacki said she felt the investigator used leading questions to get the answers he wanted to hear and added she was pulled into the investigation over an overheard conversation she had about her daughter.
Moss said he has yet to see a copy of the original complaint made to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and wondered if it even existed.
“This entire investigation was a wild goose chase,” Moss said. “It’s ridiculous it took place.”
After the vote, Moss’ attorney, Chet Pleban, addressed the council. He placed doubt on the credibility of the city's choice in investigators and said the report shows Moss and himself refusing to answer questions, which wasn't entirely accurate.
“...when we appeared, we said, all right—what are you doing? What is your job?," Pleban said. "What this man told us was that he was investigating a complaint that was purportedly filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights by Ms. Boone."
During the interview, Pleban said he asked to see the complaint. “He (the investigator) didn’t have any complaint that was filed," Pleban said. “We checked with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, and lo and behold, there was no complaint filed..."
Boone told the investigator she had filed the complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in late September. In her interview with the independent firm, she said the commission had responded that it could do nothing with the complaint because it was not within its realm, and advised her to take the complaint to another agency.
The original complaint to the commission was not included in the investigative report.
Patch called and emailed the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to ask if the commission had received the complaint and to inquire about getting a copy. The call was not returned.
Patch also tried contacting Boone, Police Chief/Acting City Administrator Robert Shockey and City Attorney Bob Sweeney to inquire about getting a copy of the complaint. Boone and Shockey were out of the office this week, and Sweeney did not return the call.
Patch will provide more details on the complaint when and if they become available.