PTC responds to harassment cases with training program

In response to several harassment complaints filed recently by city employees, Peachtree City will host mandatory “workplace harassment” training the end of this month, according to City Manager Jim Pennington.

All city workers will be required to attend the training and the process will take about two weeks, Pennington said. The city is contracting with an outside firm to provide the training.

At the Jan. 10 council meeting, Pennington noted that he would not get into the details of issues that have led to the decision to conduct the training. The city in December first learned about allegations that Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth flirted with a firefighter and forced his way into her hotel room at a November conference in Florida last year after he was asked to leave.

Eiswerth resigned last month as the allegations from female firefighter Martine Piers came to light in a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The city first learned of the allegations Dec. 17 and city officials have undertaken an investigation in the matter despite Eiswerth’s resignation.

Assistant Fire Chief Joe O’Conor was named interim chief and while Pennington said there will be a national search for a new fire chief, he is very pleased with O’Conor’s performance in the role.

In the complaint, Piers complained that Eiswerth pressured her to have sex with him on several occasions.

The EEOC complaint also accuses Eiswerth of sending Piers so many text messages that she had to change her phone number, and that he would sometimes ask to come to her house.

As for the alleged incidents at the Florida conference in November, Piers in the complaint said that Eiswerth “was even more actively trying to get me drunk.” She alleges that Eiswerth forced his way into her room at approximately 10:25 p.m. one night after a number of firefighters including Eiswerth had left her room, following which Eiswerth started texting her, indicating that “he couldn’t believe I made him leave, that everyone was asleep and that he wanted to come back up.”

As Eiswerth allegedly forced himself into Piers’ room, she said in the complaint: “At that point I feared for my safety. I was scared. With him in my room, I went to the doorway and refused to go back into the room.”

During that time, Piers claims Eiswerth asked her to come back into the room and that they could have a lot of fun.

“I repeatedly told him I did not want to have sex with him,” Piers said in the complaint. “Finally, he came outside but was very angry.”

Piers also alleges that Eiswerth when propositioning her for sex previously told her that “he has had sexual relations with other subordinate female firefighters and is very discreet.”

Piers became a full-time firefighter for the city in late 2010 following her service as a volunteer firefighter which began in 2007.

Eiswerth Eiswerth first joined the Peachtree City Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter/EMT from 1989 to 1992, earning recognition as rookie of the year in 1989 and firefighter of the year in 1990 and 1991. He left the department in 1992, but returned as a full time firefighter/EMT in 1994, earning his paramedic certification in 1995.

Eiswerth was promoted to operations/EMS captain in June of 1998, and was named assistant chief/operations in October of 2001.

Eiswerth had serves as the city’s fire chief since mid 2007, named to the position by then-City Manager Bernie McMullen.