(Al Taubenberger called PPA director Vince Fenerty's harassment of a colleague "a high school puppy love situation")
Councilmember Helen Gym and some Council colleagues are on track to pass a resolution expressing solidarity with the national #MuteRKelly campaign, which seeks to deny a public platform to the singer R. Kelly, who has been accused by a long list of victims of sexual abuse and minor abuse. But we have to raise an eyebrow at some of the members on the co-sponsor list given their roles in other local harassment controversies.
For background, #MuteRKelly a smart grassroots campaign against the singer who, despite widespread knowledge of the allegations against him, has so far managed to dodge any legal accountability or even any real damage to his brand. This campaign tries to hit Kelly where it really hurts—his wallet—and eventually end his musical career by making it politically untenable for any venue to book him.
The resolution is on track for final passage, and is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Cherelle Parker, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Derek Green, Bill Greenlee, Al Taubenberger, Allan Domb, and Jannie Blackwell.
Ernest Owens calls on all the electeds supporting this action to also get on board with the local Evict Jewell Williams campaign to oust Sheriff Jewell Williams in the election this year. Williams has been credibly accused by at least two women of sexual harassment, and yet still enjoys support for reelection from several sitting members of City Council and the city's Democratic Party.
Mayor Kenney, Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, the Philadelphia Commission for Women, and several other elected officials commendably called on Williams to resign early on, before any of the allegations had even been confirmed yet, while Democratic Party boss Bob Brady was saying the party would take a "wait and see" stance. And City Council women put out a curiously mild statement after the news broke about Williams, condemning harassment in general, but ultimately declining to call for Williams to step down—even after other elected officials had begun doing so. It's still unclear whether the Democratic Party will back the incumbent, despite two qualified challengers, Rochelle Bilal and Malika Rahman, entering the race.
But it's really Al Taubenberger's newfound concern for this issue that rings a little hollow, given his memorable cameo in the story of the Philadelphia Parking Authority's sexual harassment scandal. When it was his friend Vince Fenerty, then the Executive Director of the PPA, who was being credibly accused of harassing four colleagues over several years while the PPA Board looked on, the Councilman and PPA Board member Taubenberger memorably defended Fenerty's predatory behavior as "a High School puppy love situation" and argued that the Director should get to keep his job.
A Philadelphia Parking Authority board member on Thursday defended letting the agency's executive director, Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., keep his job after he sexually harassed a coworker, describing his advances as "a high-school puppy-love situation."
"Can it be interpreted as harassment?" City Councilman Al Taubenberger, who is on the Parking Authority board, said. "Absolutely, because she felt uncomfortable. She brought it to the proper authorities, but always saying very clearly - very, very, very clearly - 'All I want is this to end. I want to work with the people I work with.' And that included Fenerty." [...]
As for the punishment, Taubenberger acknowledged sexual harassment on face value is a fireable offense.
"It is," he said. "But ... we're all human beings. You have to make a judgment call on, how serious was it?"
Vince Fenerty, of course, is not a teenage boy attending High School, but rather a 62-year-old adult man nearing the end of his career who has no conceivable excuse for what he did. And this was also not the only occasion Fenerty was caught. As the Auditor General report noted, Taubenberger was on the PPA board in 2006 the first time a harassment claim against Fenerty came to light. And then when another harassment case came up in 2015, the board voted to retain Fenerty again.
Taubenberger later retracted the puppy love comment in response to the negative reaction, and now he's apparently getting on the R. Kelly shaming bandwagon, but it can't make up for his real record on this issue, which is serving on the PPA's board for over a decade while doing nothing to discipline serial harasser Vince Fenerty on at least two separate occasions when he had the chance.
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