ANDOVER — Town management did not create a “toxic work environment” for former Andover Youth Services employees, according to Jean Haertl, the investigator hired by the town to look into the claims.
Haertl’s report details unprofessional conduct from both town management and the Andover Youth Services staff members who made complaints against the town before resigning en masse in August. She adds that a general lack of oversight of the department contributed to many of the employee’s claims that the department became what they described as “toxic” after former Andover Youth Services Director Bill Fahey was fired for misconduct in May.
Haertl didn’t find any serious issues that rose to the level of workplace harassment. Instead, she suggested that training for staff at all levels —including the lowest ones so they know what to expect as town employees — could remedy the situation.
“This investigator concludes that AYS staff unreasonably failed to recognize and accept that they are Town employees and, particularly after Fahey’s termination, subject to the management and direction of the Town Manager, the Director of Community Services and the Human Resources Director,” wrote Haertl, who served as the state’s director of Workplace Violence and Domestic Violence Prevention for more than a decade.
Former Program Coordinator Neal Callahan spurred the investigation when he told the Select Board in a public meeting Aug. 16 that when he and the other staff were informed about Fahey being fired “we were told to remain silent about our opinions, told to remember who signs our paychecks, and encouraged not to take our jobs personally.”
Haertl wrote that only one complaint was corroborated — Director of Community Services Jemma Lambert saying “remember who signs your paychecks. You work for the Town, not Bill.” — and that it created a “chilling effect.”
Lambert told the investigator her comment was taken out of context and that she was attempting to remind them “we all work for the town,” she said.
In the 58-page investigation and subsequent 20-page summary that cost taxpayers $31,556.50, Haertl recommends Lambert receive management training and that the town train staff better about the town’s policies, including the sexual harassment policy.
“We have begun the process of implementing all the recommendations as set forth in the report, including any specified remedial steps,” said Town Manager Andrew Flanagan.
He would not comment on specifics to certain employees, however, Flanagan said town management is working with the employee assistance program to develop a comprehensive training program for all staff. The management issues also lead the town and school departments to separate their human resources departments so each could focus on a particular area better, Flanagan said.