Jul. 24—ANDOVER — Former Youth Services Director Bill Fahey was fired earlier this year for a pattern of policy violations and overstepping boundaries, including "blatant refusal" to refer families to a licensed social worker, "providing mental health advice as an untrained lay person," and sexual harassment, according to a report released by the town of Andover on Thursday.
The report, commissioned by the town during an investigation into Fahey's conduct and released after a months-long public records battle, reveals corroborated incidents when Fahey expressed "exceedingly poor judgment, if not expressly violative behavior."
Fahey violated multiple town employee ethics policies and frequently crossed professional boundaries with students and families who participated in the town's programs, the report created by private investigator Regina Ryan of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions states.
Such incidents included downloading pornography featuring a former Andover High School student and youth services employee on his work computer, then showing the video to her parents, the report continues.
Ryan wrote that Fahey's pattern of "opining" on the mental health treatment of those he served without training or a license risked exposing children to damage, and the town to potential liability.
Ryan cited one incident in which Fahey texted a parent that their son would become "real manic." Fahey requested that he be informed of their son's prescription medications and directed the family to "limit their phone communications with their son."
Ryan concluded the report by advising that "discipline and corrective action up to and including termination be considered."
She describes how Fahey "failed repeatedly to demonstrate or show an understanding" of "appropriate boundaries expected of him as the director of AYS."
Fahey was fired May 10 for what Town Manager Andrew Flanagan would only describe at the time as "misconduct."
The backlash surrounding his firing was swift from many current and former residents and program participants who fondly remember Fahey as an important presence in their lives.
Members of an organized campaign in support of the 27-year employee have been holding protests, placing signs in yards, speaking to public officials, writing letters to the editor and dominating public comment at town meetings. They demanded transparency in the firing process and to know what was in Ryan's report.
Sixteen formal requests for the documents were made, according to Town Clerk Austin Simko. That included one from The Eagle-Tribune, which initially received a nearly 100% redacted report, with the exception of already public documents.
The state concluded those redactions were too heavy-handed and ordered the town to release a more transparent version.
"This was a question of everyone's privacy, including Mr. Fahey's." said the town's attorney Leonard Kesten regarding the original redactions. "We tried to be sensitive."
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said, "Typically when an employee is terminated the reason is never given out of respect for the employee."
Accusations of misconduct
In the months since Fahey's firing — and in the absence of more information — public conversation largely focused on allegations made by a now 26-year-old woman who came forward to disclose what she described as an inappropriate relationship with Fahey. She said that relationship included sexual misconduct while she was an Andover High School student and an AYS employee as a teenager, and for years after.
She was interviewed by representatives of District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office, who found no criminal conduct and referred the case to the town, Carrie Kimball, a spokesperson for the DA's office, said.
Following the referral, the town hired Ryan to look into the allegations.
During the investigation, Ryan interviewed seven people including Fahey, the woman who made the allegations, her mother and father, her friends and Sobhan Namvar, the town's community support coordinator who works with the Police Department.
Ryan found the most serious allegations of sexual misconduct made by the woman, including how she and Fahey discussed his sex life, not to be credible because the woman's "recollections are not sufficiently reliable." Ryan also noted that Fahey had "significant gaps in his credibility" as well.
The most concerning information, which was supported by both the woman's mother and father, was that Fahey showed pornographic material of the woman to her parents, Kesten said.
Her parents confirmed Fahey went to their home and they "watched the video together," according to the report.
By showing them the video he violated town policy, Ryan wrote. "If he (Fahey) believed there were legitimate reasons to inform (her parents) of (the woman)'s activity, a phone conversation without the dramatic viewing of the video would certainly suffice."
Murphy has said previously that Fahey denies showing a video of the woman engaged in a sex act to her parents, though he did bring the matter to their attention.
Throughout the investigation, Ryan also found corroborated issues Fahey had with professional boundaries.
Namvar, who worked for AYS at the same time as the woman, confirmed he saw Fahey talking to her and other young people in his office with the door closed.
"That he met with (the woman) at the AYS late at night after other staff had left is troubling and creates — at minimum — the appearance of impropriety," Ryan wrote.
Ryan also concluded that Fahey's pattern of touching and hugging AYS participants — which he admitted to in his interview — expressly violated Andover's sexual harassment policy, noting: ". . . to assume a minor child could consent to such contact reveals exceedingly poor judgment, if not expressly violative behavior."
The town has recurring sexual harassment training, in which Fahey would have been told multiple times throughout his 27-year career it was against town policy, Flanagan said.
"Senior managers are trained to identify and report (sexual harassment), never mind commit it, and them following those policies are an expectation of their employment," he added.
Ryan concluded Fahey's "regular practice of meeting with children in closed areas, driving them in his vehicle, hugging them and making expressions of love and beauty and meeting with (the woman) late at night reveal a blatant disregard for boundaries and amount to conduct unbecoming of a Town employee."
According to the report, Fahey also never made any referrals to other town agencies, including Namvar at the Police Department, whose position as a social worker was created at Fahey's insistence.
"Fahey's blatant refusal to refer children and families to the licensed social worker at the APD community outreach division, when he represented to the Select Board the need for said services, validates his unwillingness to relinquish control over these children and families," Ryan wrote.
Murphy, Fahey's lawyer, countered that Fahey never acted as a mental health professional and gave referrals, including to AYS Outreach Worker Jackie Stackhouse, who is a trained social worker.
Flanagan said Friday that town management was never made aware of Fahey driving AYS participants or being alone with them in other capacities until the investigation. Nor did he know Fahey never referred anyone to Namvar, he said.
"It's been alarming as we were able to dig deeper into this information," Flanagan said.
'We will continue to pursue this,'
Murphy, who filed a lawsuit against the town on Fahey's behalf, said Fahey was wrongfully terminated because the investigation's scope was to look into sexual impropriety and those allegations were not substantiated.
In a statement Murphy wrote that because many of the accusations made by the woman were found not to be credible and that the investigation went deeper than those initial allegations, there were "obvious flaws," including who the investigator questioned.
"(The) town found other reasons unrelated to the original allegation to fire Bill Fahey. As stated in the Complaint, firing Bill Fahey was the real goal of the Town," Murphy wrote, referring to the lawsuit. "Additionally, some of the redactions made by the Town were not necessary to protect anyone's confidentiality and appear to have been made to support the Town's position."
Andover residents Roland and Karen Kim, who appealed the town's initial report, similarly questioned the remaining redactions in the report.
"We are also struck by the level of redaction applied to many of Bill's comments, and it is our opinion that these redactions do not meet the intent of the Commonwealth's directive for information disclosure nor do these redactions meet the necessary requirement to state why passages were redacted," they wrote in an email.
"It is our belief that the content redacted prevents a complete understanding of the context of Bill's response to the allegations and the reasons for his decision to help this witness (the woman whose complaint prompted the report) and the witness' family," they wrote. "We will continue to pursue this matter further with the Supervisor of Public Records."
They also questioned why the town did not interview more people.
"It relies heavily on statements made by the witness, her friends and family, as well as Sobhan, but does not introduce any perspective or context from current or past staff," they said.
Kesten contends that the report clearly shows cause for termination and that town officials were correct in their actions.
"He was not doing his job. He was supposed to identify troubled youth and refer them to the proper professionals," Kesten said. "He was not hired as a trained psychiatrist. If he was a trained psychiatrist, social worker or any mental health professional he wouldn't have behaved that way."