Gov. Tom Wolf, officials pile on following PPA sexual harassment scandal

Gov. Wolf said the board should consider termination. The city Commission for Women said Vince Fenerty should resign.

Left: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. Right: PPA Executive Director Vince Fenerty.

Left: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. Right: PPA Executive Director Vince Fenerty.

Youtube and Mark Dent/Billy Penn

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and other Pennsylvania politicians are urging the Philadelphia Parking Authority to take sexual harassment seriously and considering terminating the agency’s executive director.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that Vince Fenerty, the executive director of the PPA, sexually harassed a fellow employee over the span of two years, but kept his $223,000 a year job after using his own $30,000 to pay for an independent investigation into his behavior.

The PPA, which regulates parking in Philadelphia as well as taxis, limos and ridesharing services, is technically a state agency, with the majority of its board being appointed by the governor. The current members of the board representing the state were appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett, Wolf’s predecessor.

“Sexual harassment is abhorrent and unacceptable,” a spokesman for Wolf said in a statement. “Governor Wolf would urge leaders of any organization, including the board of PPA, to take sexual harassment seriously and mete out serious discipline to offenders including termination of employment.”

Felicia Harris, the chair of the Philadelphia Commission for Women, took it one step farther, saying in a statement that Fenerty should resign.

“There is no question that Vince Fenerty’s behavior disqualifies him from leading a major state agency, a fact all but acknowledged by the Board when they stripped him of most of his professional responsibilities last year,” Harris said.

Democratic candidate for attorney general Josh Shapiro also weighed in, tweeting this today:

Fenerty did face some discipline at the PPA. The Inquirer reported the board notified Fenerty in a letter in July 2015 that the independent investigation revealed “he had sexually harassed a woman who is a senior director in the authority.” The board apparently didn’t fire Fenerty, a more than 30-year veteran of the PPA, because of his “acknowledgment of impropriety and commitment to prevent a reoccurrence.”

Instead, they stripped away many of his responsibilities. Fenerty is no longer allowed to hire or fire upper-level employees, and he can’t go on overnight trips for work without some sort of permission from the board. He also has to attend counseling, which he’s expected to pay for.

And, since the revelations surrounding Fenerty last year, the PPA changed its own internal policies to explicitly spell out: “Under no circumstances should you ever kiss, caress, hug, massage or otherwise engage in personal physical conduct with an Authority employee. You shall not comment on the personal appearance of an Authority employee… You may not engage in intimate personal conversations of a sexual nature with an Authority employee.”

Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who sits on the PPA board, said board members can’t discuss the situation as it relates to “personnel.”

Billy Penn reporter Mark Dent contributed.

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