City of Chattanooga urges review of sexual harassment charges

City of Chattanooga urges review of sexual harassment charges

September 16th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Paul Page, Chattanooga's director of general services

Document: Complaint Response

The city's response to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and city General Services Director Paul Page's affidavit.

TIMELINE


• October 2008: A city employee files a complaint about General Services Director Paul Page.

• November 2008: Page is suspended after independent investigation finds he violated sexual harassment policies.

• December 2008: A second woman files a complaint about sexual harassment by Page to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

• October 2009: A third woman files a lawsuit in Circuit Court, saying Page assaulted her.

• August 2011: EEOC says Page sexually harassed a female employee and city needs to take corrective action.

• September 2011: Chattanooga's response to EEOC states a more-thorough investigation needs to be conducted.

Source: Newspaper archives

Chattanooga officials say complaints of sexual harassment by a high-level city administrator are unfounded and a more thorough investigation should be conducted.

After the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said General Services Director Paul Page sexually harassed a female employee in 2008, Assistant City Attorney Ken Fritz wrote a response to the EEOC on Sept. 1.

Fritz said the woman, who is listed as the "Charging Party" in documents, did not take the necessary steps required in harassment claims.

"The Charging Party knew or should have known how to properly access the harassment prevention policy," Fritz wrote. "The Charging Party could have approached any supervisor, manager or elected official to file a complaint or she would have been counseled and directed how to appropriately file with her complaint."

But in the woman's December 2008 complaint to the EEOC, she said she did complain to her immediate supervisor. She said the supervisor, also a woman, told her Page had sexually harassed her as well.

The complaint states that the supervisor approached her boss, a man, who told her "it is common knowledge" that Page spoke inappropriately about sex to female employees, the complaint states.

In her complaint, the employee alleged that Page systematically harassed several women in different city departments.

"I feel like my job is in danger because I have not been pretending this isn't going on," the woman wrote in her complaint.

In a separate complaint filed in October 2008, the city found Page guilty of sexually harassing another woman. The city suspended him and ordered him to go through sexual harassment training before being reinstated. City records show he completed that training on Dec. 9, 2008.

The city maintains Page never had any interaction with the second complainant after December. But city records show the woman complained of another incident with Page in January 2009.

Page has denied all the sexual harassment charges.

Two Stories

In the December 2008 complaint, the woman stated that Page stared at her in the workplace and tried to use his office to procure special favors.

At one point, she stated, she jumped over the bumper of Page's car because he tried to block her from leaving the workplace. She said he ran after her, suggesting she leave with him.

Page, in an affidavit to the EEOC, denied ever leering at the woman or blocking her with his car. Page stated in the affidavit that he conducted himself professionally in all his interactions with the woman.

He said the previous independent investigation led to appropriate disciplinary action.

"I was humiliated and embarrassed by the investigation of alleged sexual harassment based on my interactions with co-workers," Page states in the affidavit. "I have conducted myself in conformity with the city's personnel policies at all times during my employment."

A Third Incident

In October 2009, a local businesswoman filed a lawsuit against Page alleging assault.

Kathryn Ann Hise, who owned a flower shop in East Ridge, stated in her suit that Page, acting on behalf of the store owner, would come by the shop to collect the rent. She said Page would repeatedly touch her without permission.

"Page came by unannounced from time to time to the store and placed his hands on plaintiff and demanded hugs," the lawsuit states.

In one instance, Page gave Hise his phone number and address and asked her to go home with him to have a drink, the lawsuit says.

Hal North, Page's attorney, said Thursday that Page is still fighting the allegations and the suit is still in court.

"The allegations were untrue and incorrect," he said. "The lady is basically trying to extort money from him and another person."

Steve Duggins, Hise's attorney, said Hise's story is "absolutely" true and said more would come out in court.

"There's more to this case than just sexual harassment allegations," Duggins said.

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