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Arroyo fired in midst of MCAD investigation

Yawu Miller | 8/30/2017, 10:55 a.m.
Mayor Martin Walsh fired Chief of Health and Human Services Felix G. Arroyo last week amid an investigation into allegations ...
Felix G. Arroyo Banner file photo

Mayor Martin Walsh fired Chief of Health and Human Services Felix G. Arroyo last week amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

Arroyo’s firing came after an employee in one of the departments he oversees filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging Arroyo harassed her on the job, then grabbed her by the back of the neck after she threatened to complain. Arroyo has denied the allegations.

“We are disappointed in [the mayor’s] decision,’’ Arroyo spokeswoman Collette Phillips told the Boston Globe. “Felix is adamant that these allegations are baseless and retaliatory and will continue to fight to clear his name and is looking forward to fully cooperating with the MCAD.”

The Walsh administration had suspended Arroyo July 27 after the employee came to then-Chief of Staff Dan Koh with the allegations. The MCAD complaint was filed August 18.

Walsh did not disclose his grounds for firing Arroyo.

“That would be considered a personnel matter,” said Walsh administration spokeswoman Laura Oggeri.

Some have cautioned against a rush to judgement in the case, noting that the MCAD investigation, and a criminal investigation being conducted by the Boston Police Department, are ongoing.

“I am awaiting to hear all sides, before passing any judgment on any and all parties involved,” wrote El Mundo President and CEO Alberto Vasallo, III on his Facebook page. “I believe it’s the prudent thing to do.”

District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson, currently running against Walsh for the mayor’s seat, has been sharply critical of Walsh in his remarks to news media outlets, and said he was "deeply troubled" by the complainant's allegations of retribution.

"While the Walsh Administration claims to advocate for women’s health and safety in the workplace, these issues are clearily not being prioritized within the Mayor’s own Cabinet," Jackson said in a statement.

Other councilors, commenting in a Globe article, referred to the allegations as “disturbing” and some praised the courage of the alleged victim.

“Victims who bravely speak out and take action deserve our respect and support as they empower others not to be afraid,’’ said Council President Michelle Wu. “The allegations I read in the news are disturbing.”

The complainant named Arroyo, his chief of staff Ilyitch Nahiely Tabora and Walsh in her complaint, alleging that she was demoted when city officials transferred her to another department.

Walsh told reporters the woman was transferred at her own request.

“It was a lateral move,” Walsh was quoted in MassLive. “Same salary, same job title. This was not a demotion. This was making sure that she felt safe until this investigation was completed.”

MCAD spokesman H Harrison said the agency is actively investigating the complaint. The investigation may take as long as 20 months to complete.