Arroyo responds to harassment claim

Yawu Miller | 9/26/2017, 9:24 a.m.
Last week, Arroyo fired back with a response to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaint filed by the employee, Hilani ...
Felix G. Arroyo (Photo courtesy of Felix G. Arroyo)

Yawu Miller

In August, Felix G. Arroyo was fired from his job as chief of Health and Human Services after an investigation of allegations by an employee in his office that Arroyo sexually harassed her and that Arroyo, his chief of staff and Mayor Martin Walsh retaliated by demoting her after she made public her allegations.

Last week, Arroyo fired back with a response to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaint filed by the employee, Hilani Morales, stating she had made up the allegations against him, and presented three different versions of her story. He presented evidence in the form of text messages and office communications that he said contradict the allegations.

Morales, whom Arroyo hired in October 2015 as a policy director, complained to the city’s human resources department in July 2017, launching an investigation into Arroyo’s conduct. On July 28, Arroyo was placed on paid administrative leave.

While the human resources department has not made Morales’ complaint public, Arroyo’s attorneys say he was interviewed Aug. 16 and provided “exculpatory evidence” to the investigator.

“The complaint filed against Mr. Arroyo is baseless and defamatory,” attorney Isaac Peres said in a statement sent to the Banner. “Every piece of Mr. Arroyo’s response to MCAD is corroborated with over two hundred pages evidence that was submitted that includes messages between Ms. Morales and Mr. Arroyo, Ms. Morales and her co-workers and witness testimony which will prove that the allegations made against Mr. Arroyo are completely false. Mr. Arroyo is looking forward to cooperating fully with the MCAD and clearing his name.”

Morales did not return a phone call from the Banner.

After an investigator hired by the city made Morales aware of some or all of the evidence submitted by Arroyo in July, Peres says in the MCAD filing, Morales filed her complaint with the MCAD and gave the Boston Globe a copy of complaint. In her MCAD complaint, Morales claims Arroyo slapped her buttocks repeatedly from the time she was hired in 2015 until she filed her complaint, and that he grabbed her by the back of the neck and threatened her when she told him she was meeting with human resources.

In response to the MCAD complaint, Arroyo submitted text messages sent in 2016 and 2017 that he said contradict Morales’ assertion that he harassed her. In three messages sent in January and February of this year, Morales offered Arroyo rides to the HHS City Hall office. In his responses, he declined each offer. In another message, she wishes him a happy Valentine’s Day. In a message sent January 24, she suggests the two meet one-on-one to talk about his divorce.

After she filed a complaint with human resources, Arroyo alleges, Morales sent messages to a former HHS co-worker alleging Arroyo harassed other women in the office and urging her to come forward with a complaint. The co-worker later shared the messages with Arroyo.

“6 possibly 7 victims have come forward as of today” reads an Aug. 2 message by Morales. “This is re-traumatizing for all of us.”