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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Warren Turner vs Anthony Foxx: Turner Denies Allegations, Fights Back

Warren Turner Won't Face Formal Charges After Sexual Harassment Allegations Investigation

In a six to three vote, Charlotte City leaders Monday voted not to censure council member Warren Turner for alleged misconduct.

The vote against a formal reprimand came one week after council learned five different women had accused Turner of making sexually inappropriate remarks.

"I find it hard to believe that all of these people are lying," council member Michael Barnes said as city leaders considered a motion to censure Turner. "I don’t like anything I’ve been hearing. I don’t think this censure is enough. I wish we could do more."

Barnes, along with council members Nancy Carter and Susan Burgess voted to censure Turner.

Turner was recused from the vote and council member Edwin Peacock had been excused from the meeting earlier in the evening.

Council member Andy Dulin said he had not seen any conclusive evidence of misconduct.

"It doesn’t make sense to me for us to be jumping to this conclusion of his guilt," Dulin told council. "There’s been no proof, there’s been no trial, there’s been no rebuttal."

Attorney Valecia McDowell of law firm Moore and Van Allen was hired by the city in March to investigate allegations of sexual harassment made against Turner.

At a meeting last week, McDowell released the results of her month-long investigation.

She said the city's director of human resources began documenting the claims against Turner in September 2008.

The employee later accused Turner of commenting to another council member that he thought the she was a lesbian and he was surprised she was engaged to a man.

In a third encounter, the employee said Turner grabbed her sweater, touching her inappropriately.

Three other female employees had also made harassment complaints against the councilman, McDowell said.

One woman, who traveled with Turner and other city employees and officials to a 2006 conference in Reno, Nevada, said the councilman made a sexually suggestive remark to her as they passed by a display of pornographic materials.

The two other accusers declined to specify where and when the alleged harassment occurred, McDowell said, fearing such details would identify them and could lead to retribution.

Monday evening, in his first formal response to the allegations, Turner said McDowell's report was "filled with untruths, half-truths and inconsistencies."

"At no time have I ever made any sexually explicit comments,any subtle sexual comments, any sexual gestures, or any sexual contact or any physical contact with any of these employees listed in this report or to any other individual in a professional work environment," Turner told council members.

The alleged misconduct by a council member first came to light in early March when Mayor Anthony Foxx sent out an e-mail to all council members, cautioning them against incidents of sexual harassment, saying that kind of conduct would not be tolerated.

The e-mail did not name any names, causing some male members to complain that they were all suspects. The city decided that hiring an outside investigator was the best way to learn what did or did not happen.

A fifth woman, a cadet who attended the city's police academy with Turner in 1988, also claimed harassment, according to McDowell's report.

Turner, who was 24 years-old at the time, was later fired by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

"My termination had absolutely nothing to with sexual harassment," Turner said Monday. "I was charged with threatening a cadet. I was charged because that cadet stepped onto my feet twice. And she asked me what are you going to do about it?"

A council member since 2003, Turner said he has faced "humiliation and unfairness" since the allegations were first made public.

He has criticized both Foxx and city manager Curt Walton for their handling of the claims.

Walton and Foxx have said there is no formal policy for dealing with sexual harassment allegations made against a city leader.

Foxx has since appointed a special committee to draft new ethics guidelines for city council members.

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Sources: WCNC, Google Maps

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