PTC fire chief’s sexual harassment cost: $350,000
Extra $50K settlement offered for fire chief’s sexual pressures on female firefighter subordinate
Peachtree City officials have worked out a separate $50,000 settlement to compensate a female firefighter who claimed that former Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth stormed into her hotel room at a conference in November as part of an attempt to have sex with her.
The $50,000 settlement that will be voted on Thursday night by the Peachtree City Council would be in addition to a $300,000 settlement firefighter Martine Piers negotiated with the city’s risk management carrier, the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA).
When the incident at the hotel in Clearwater, Fla., came to light in December, Eiswerth tendered his resignation from the fire department. A federal equal employment opportunity complaint filed by Piers recounted how Eiswerth made multiple attempts to coax her into having sex with him.
In an interview with the city’s human resources department following the incident, Piers said she thought Eiswerth was going to rape her and that he violated her trust. Eiswerth also removed Piers from the city’s volunteer firefighter board a short time after they returned from the Florida conference, which she considered retaliation for rebuffing his sexual advances.
In the HR interview, Piers said she decided to come forward to protect younger female firefighters, and she didn’t want Eiswerth to brush the incident under the carpet.
Piers joined the fire department in November 2010 as a full-time firefighter. In exchange for the legal settlement, she is dropping the right to file future lawsuits with the city and also will move to dismiss her complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The proposed $50,000 settlement was reached during a mediation hearing Feb. 19 between Piers, the city and GIRMA.
The city may be facing a future lawsuit from Eiswerth in a dispute over unpaid sick leave he had accrued over his career with the fire department. The city has declined to pay the sick leave, an amount over $20,000, because city policy dictates that Eiswerth is ineligible because he did not work a full two-week advance notice period following the tendering of his resignation.
Eiswerth will be paid by the city for his accrued leave and compensatory time, according to an email sent to Eiswerth’s legal counsel in regards to the issue.
In a letter to Eiswerth Dec. 21, City Manager Jim Pennington noted that he was classifying Eiswerth’s resignation four days earlier as a “resignation while under investigation.”
In that letter, Pennington said had Eiswerth not resigned, “there is a very good chance that I would have initiated disciplinary proceedings,” against him.
“This conclusion is based on those allegations of the (EEOC) charge which you have admitted in your discussions with [HR Director] Ellece [Brown] and me as being true or substantially true, as well as your status as a department head for implementing, ensuring compliance with and enforcing city policy.”