Cook: Sexual harassment has a cost

Cook: Sexual harassment has a cost

September 26th, 2011 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

The federal government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently determined that Paul Page, our city's director of general services, has "sexually harassed and retaliated against" multiple people employed within Chattanooga's city government.

Page reports directly to Mayor Ron Littlefield, who, in a democracy, reports directly to the citizens.

The mayor has yet to answer questions about this, including the most pressing one: How long have you known about Page's behavior?

In 2006, Paul Page was paid $80,159 in his job as director of asset management.

In 2007, Page was promoted to director of general services. His salary increased to $90,990.

The following year, Page's salary again increased, to $95,594, and his salary remains at that level.

That same year, Page became the subject of several investigations. At least three people -- women and men -- within city government filed local and federal complaints against him, alleging sexual harassment.

According to their testimonies, Page has created a culture of sexual harassment that was overlooked by top administrators within city government.

"We've all complained up the chain of command but to no avail and the

harassment has continued each time," one city employee told the EEOC.

In 2008, another city employee lost his job over sexual harassment charges.

The city received the resignation of Ed Hammonds, former city court clerk, in July 2008 after an investigation discovered he had a "strong pattern" of sending sexually explicit emails and encouraging explicit conversations.

A few months later, complaints were filed about Page, whose behavior, according to EEOC complaints, has included soliciting sex in exchange for a job promotion or a salary increase, making lewd comments, intimidating female subordinates and, as one bizarre example, asking female co-workers to kiss the windowpane in his office, leaving lipstick smudges on the glass.

Why did Hammonds lose his job but not Page?

People within city government are quite scared. Every source I speak with demands to stay off the record, citing fear of retaliation if they speak out.

The mayor is silent. Page still keeps his job. City attorneys, paid by tax dollars, are defending Page instead of defending the victim.

"We feel our jobs are in danger," one employee told the EEOC. She was fired shortly thereafter.

I don't want to believe this. I don't want to hear -- again and again -- from city employees who have witnessed gobs of corruption. I wait for the day when the mayor -- our elected leader, figurehead of a city just named the best place to live in the United States -- comes forward and speaks with justice, compassion and truth.

I look forward to the day when Mayor Littlefield stands up and proclaims that no one -- not a city employee, not your wife, or your mother, or your daughter -- should be forced to endure harassment like the kind the EEOC says Page has subjected on others.

Mayor Littlefield, why are you silent?

David Cook can be reached at davidcook@blumail.org.