Discipline was not harassment city manager says
Parks director cleared of wrongdoing but critics cry foul after report
The Valdez city manager published a memorandum of record with the Valdez City Council, clearing the city's director of Parks and Recreation of ethics violations following an in-house investigation.
Last September, a group of former parks employees addressed council with a list of allegations against their former boss, Darryl Verfaillie, claiming an ethical breach, and a pattern of harassment, intimidation, nepotism and favoritism in the department.
"...in no case was any inappropriate, illegal, or unethical behavior or activity discovered," Hozey said in the two page document titled Memorandum for Record.
Hozey cited the "explosion" of new or enhanced recreation programs and activities he said would not be possible without a "cohesive team environment."
He also said that the incidents cited by former employees as patterns of harassment were justified and necessary disciplinary actions.
"It therefore appears that in each case valid disciplinary procedures had been misinterpreted as workplace harassment," Hozey said.
Verfaillie said shortly after the allegations were made that he had never violated city policy.
In a Monday email to the Valdez Star, Verfaillie said he knew he would be exonerated.
"I never, for once, doubted the outcome of this investigation," the email said. "As City employees, the public entrusts us to ensure we fulfill our work responsibilities as outlined in our job descriptions, as our performance directly impacts the community in which we serve. Our department operates as a family, and I am confident that the current staff far exceeds those expectations. Regardless of how efficient an organization is, there is always room to improve upon past practices and capture lessons-learned as we move forward."
He cited good ethics and honesty as the reason he was sure his name would be cleared.
"The guiding principal upon which we operate – and will continue to operate - is that we always strive to do what is right – not what is easiest," he said. "When you are consistently honest with folks, you never have to "try" to remember what you told someone... the truth never changes!"
At least one former employee, who had submitted a letter outlining complaints in the 50,plus pages of documentation presented to the council to back up their claims, disagreed with Hozey's report and spoke up during Monday night's city council meeting.
"We expected this outcome," Viola Amberg told the council, and said the investigation was tantamount to the fox guarding the henhouse and accused the city manager of blind allegiance. "Mr. Hozey, your investigation was a farce."
Amberg spoke out early in the meeting when members of the public address council on items not on the meeting agenda. The council later weighed in on the memorandum of record during the reports portion of the meeting.
Council member Ruth Knight expressed surprise that the city manager himself had conducted the investigation and called on the council to reject the report.
"Several members of Council indicated they did not feel the report described a fair and unbiased investigation of the allegations," Deputy City Clerk Allie Hendrickson said in an email to the Valdez Star in reply to an enquiry to clarify the council's position on the report.
The allegations the group of former employees – and the documentation they included as evidence backing up their claims - was presented to the council because the group believed Verfaillie had committed an ethical violation, in addition to their complaints about the workplace environment – and a section of the city code tasks the council with the responsibility of enforcing personnel ethics.
The city attorney's legal opinion said personnel issues and ethical standard enforcement is strictly under the purview of the city manager and the council was advised to not act on the specific allegations against Verfaillie.
The actual documents containing the complaints against the director were later published online October 15 by the Valdez Star.