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Lawrenceville official suspended after another sexual harassment investigation

City Manager Chuck Warbington suspended Hardigree for seven days, according to a Feb. 23 memo the AJC acquired under the Georgia Open Records Act. The memo cited a pattern of inappropriate conduct and mentioned policy violations pertaining the use of “discriminatory conduct or language” as well as “gross misconduct.”

In addition to the suspension, Hardigree was disciplined in March with a performance review plan that calls for a host of actions and training he must undergo. That plan cited five policy areas of concern, including unlawful harassment and conduct that reflects unfavorably on the city.

This wasn’t the first time his words had gotten him in trouble. In 2019, according to city records, he had received verbal counseling for inappropriate comments made in the presence of employees.

Hardigree declined to be interviewed for this story and referred an AJC reporter to Warbington and the communications department. Warbington and city officials would not grant an interview to discuss the investigation. They said in a written statement that the only reason they made the investigation public was because the AJC filed a records request.

“As with the Police Department review, the personnel matter with Lawrenceville’s Natural Gas Department only becomes a matter of public record to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act,” they said.

The investigation into Hardigree’s actions began on Jan. 20, less than one month after a lawyer with Elarbee Thompson completed the firm’s review of the culture of sexual harassment and hostility within the police department. Together, the two reports raise the specter of a broader culture of questionable conduct and judgment by some of the most senior leaders in the city of Lawrenceville.

That earlier investigation determined both the then-acting chief and a male captain had sexually harassed the department’s only female captain. The findings pushed both men out of the department: Capt. Ryan Morgan resigned in December before he could be interviewed by an investigator, and Chief Timothy Wallis was forced to resign for speaking to the press about the investigation.

Wallis has since filed a lawsuit accusing the city of violating his First Amendment rights, and the victim of the sexual harassment, Capt. Tawyna Gilovanni, has filed a federal charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that she has faced retaliation after reporting the problems.

The gas department provides natural gas service for the residents of Lawrenceville and parts of Gwinnett, Rockdale and Walton counties, according to the city’s website. It has 43 employees, three of whom are women, according to the investigative report. The 4-page document describes an environment where the director routinely “cuts up” with male employees, and throws around remarks in the office related to sexuality.

The comments made within the department would range from calling someone’s jacket or car “feminine” to calling…

Read More: Lawrenceville official suspended after another sexual harassment investigation

2022-06-01 22:04:21

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