Ethics violations alleged against parks director
Former employees ask for investigation after submitting documentation
Parks & Rec file photo
Darryl Verfaillie, the city's director for Parks & Rec.
A group of former employees with the city's Dept. of Parks and Recreation are asking that the department's director and the recreation supervisor be placed on leave pending an investigation into alleged ethical violations.
Pam Lunt, the now-retired manager of the civic center, read a prepared statement to the Valdez City Council Monday night, alleging a hostile work environment.
"There are employees who, right now, are afraid to go to work tomorrow. The daily uncertainty of what's next? What did I do wrong now? How can I become invisible so that I'm not the next target?" Lunt said. "We, the former employees, know how they feel, because we've experienced it firsthand. The humiliation, anger, frustration, bewilderment, worthlessness, defeat."
Lunt, surrounded by other former employees, said previous complaints to city administration had fallen on deaf ears and she asked for an investigation into claims of alleged ethical violations given to council members as evidence to back up the claims.
"That's why we're here tonight to ask you, our city council, to investigate our concerns. We also respectfully request that during this process, in light of the overwhelming evidence we have submitted, that at the very least you place the director and the recreation supervisor on investigative administrative leave, effective immediately," she said. "The current employees, and the people of our community, deserve the right to be protected from the current culture of intimidation and the very real fear of retaliation."
The Valdez Star has learned that the group, along with other former employees, personally hand-delivered a large paper packet to individual council members Friday that the employees say back up their claims.
The specific nature of the allegations against the director, Darryl Verfaille, or the recreation supervisor, have not been made public.
During a short break of the council meeting, Verfaille told the Valdez Star he had no comment to make except to stress that he has always followed the city's personnel rules and regulations.
John Hozey, the city manager, said he had just learned of the specific allegations for the first time and could not comment on personnel issues, but he would be looking into the allegations.
"I will look into it and exercise due diligence," he said, noting he had previously only heard vague complaints about the way the department is run.
Mayor Dave Cobb told the group that the council could not act on a personnel issue; it would fall under the purview of the city manager.
"The city council has no role in this at this time," Mayor Dave Cobb said during the address of the former employees.
Under the city's structure, the council employs the city manager who in turn manages city employees.
In a telephonic interview after the meeting, Lunt quoted section 2.24.050 of the city's municipal code, which places the enforcement personnel ethics squarely on the shoulders of council.
The Municipal Code of Ethics, which governs elected officials and city employees, states "The city council shall have the primary responsibility for the enforcement of this chapter and shall ensure that a determination of the validity of a complaint is made within thirty days after receipt of the complaint."
The group also presented council with a statement signed by 95 members of the public.
"We, the undersigned residents of Valdez, Alaska, urge the Valdez City Council to investigate and hold accountable the actions of the Director of Valdez Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services and the Recreational Supervisor," it says.
Verfaille was named head of the department in 2012.
His career in Valdez began much earlier. Verfaillie was the U.S. Coast Guard's Commander of Port Valdez from mid-2008 into 2011. He was promoted to the rank of Captain and did a final stint in Ohio, in the Coast Guard's District 9, Great Lakes Region.
The department he now heads in Valdez is vast. The official title is Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. In addition to running and maintaining the city's recreational facilities and running programs, it also oversees the day to day functions of the Valdez Civic Center, its cemetery and a large number of recreational programs.