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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.



Mike King's picture

Two Weeks of training may well make people aware, but a couple of outright terminations would set a lasting example.

On second thought, we have a mayor who gets away with $12,000.00 and the example is set.

Of course you're right--no amt of training (esp when no one wants to be there) will change a culture. It's a knee-jerk reaction of "Damn, we've got to do SOMETHING! It's more like "mass punishment" than anything else.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Is it just me, does that make any sense to anyone at all?

Live free or die!

Why is the city doing this? Simple. The employees of PTC are all big boys and girls and know full well what is inappropriate behavior and conversation. The only reason the City is offering this training is to cover their behinds. And I can't blame the City. We live in a litigious world. If this type of inappropriate behavior occurs again, the City can say the employee was trained as to what is harrassment and was warned to not participate in this type of behavior potentially absolving the City of any liability. I also suspect when the employee has completed the training, they are required to sign a statement to that effect. The only way the City could be held liable would be if it was brought to their attention harrassment occurred again and failed to properly deal with the employee who committed the harrassment.

I agree with you 99%.... With one exception. One big problem at PTC is they have rules, regs, policy, and as stated earlier... they already trained on this. Personnel signed for this and god knows the PD trains on it annually-again with all employees signing that they had the training. Where the city fails miserably is this: until 'it' hits the fan, they overlook it. The behavior is condoned. When reported, it's swept under the rug. It's when the big stuff happens that they become reactionary and hope to heck no one else comes out of the wood work. The city can scream till they are blue that they trained on it and told everyone how wrong it is; but, when all of the notifications are documented (and OMG is there a paper trail), then they are still culpable.

Just my 2 cents.

Harrassment seemed pervasive throughout the city in some form or another based on recent articles.

It seems to me that they need to advise people on the definition of harassment and tell them that they need to first notify the person who offended them, then let the city manager know what's going on.

To me, all of this could have been avoided had someone stopped it the first time it happened. It seems too easy to play along, because it may stroke someones ego, until its too late. Then they figure they have an easy lawsuit.

from what my sources tell me the training will encompass the last two weeks of this is spread out over the two week period to get all city employees trained. The actual training sessions supposedly are only scheduled for two hours.

NUK_1's picture

1) Peki Prince at the PTCFD and her "history"
2) The PTC PD's on-going lawsuit and battles with the EEOC and their own command staff

It wasn't just Eiswerth, but I guess that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

In either 2010 or 2011, all employees had to go through this training. A knee jerk reaction to complaints against a certain lieutenant and the police chief. It apparently worked so well then that we are reliving it in 2013. Of course we didn't pay the big bucks to an outside company then. It was created inhouse. Wonder if the officers will get POST credit for this.

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