A Mississippi leader of the federal government’s largest employee union remains on the job in the Department of Veterans Affairs with a mere official slap on the wrist after an investigative board said he committed a gross sexual assault on a colleague.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, this was a sexual assault,” said a Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Investigation Board report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The testimony provided by the witnesses is inclusive to lead a reasonable person to believe that the reported alleged incident did in fact occur.”
The Mississippi revelation comes as congressional frustration mounts with V.A.’s failure to hold employees accountable in multiple recent scandals, including officials falsifying wait-times for veterans seeking care and benefits, massive waste and fraud in all of the department’s major construction projects, and the near-complete absence of firings or other disciplinary actions against the civil servants responsible.
House Speaker John Boehner, for example, said in fiery speech on the House floor last week that wait times for patient care were falsified at 101 V.A. facilities but “just one person has been fired. One. What the hell happened to the rest of them?”
The 2014 report described a claim that American Federation of Government Employees Local 1045 President John Mechanic II sexually assaulted Amy Payton, a nursing assistant for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, Miss. on March 20, 2013.
The report includes testimony from seven other women, as well as that of a criminal investigator who claimed Mechanic had a history of sexual harassment. The report stated:
Mr. Mechanic used his position of authority to get Ms. Payton in isolated situations and attempted to take advantage of her. Once isolated, he would make unwanted advances toward her by touching and groping her without permission.
The attack was a physical altercation with Mr. Mechanic attempting to pull her pants down.
The report continued with a graphic description of the assault.
Mechanic, however, claimed innocence, citing a letter from hospital director Anthony Dawson, who said, “The issues involving your interactions with employees reviewed by the recent Administrative Board of Investigation … revealed the allegations were not substantiated.”
Dawson also called Mechanic’s work “crucial” and ordered him to “deal with people/patients with courtesy and civility,” to avoid “discourteous conduct.” He did not explain in the letter how the action described in the board report represented “discourteous conduct” instead of a sexual assault.
“The board is assembled and they do the fact finding,” said hospital spokeswoman Mary Gominger. “The findings do not necessarily set the course of action.” Gominger said fact-finding reports are followed by a review from higher officials. She declined to comment on Dawson’s letter.
The investigative board’s report said Mechanic “presented himself in such a fashion to demonstrate to the board members that he was not only in charge of us, but also in control of us. We concluded that the actions of Mr. Mechanic prior to and on March 20, 2013 were methodical and premeditated.”
Criminal investigator Mark Jenkins told the board that “it appears that [Mechanic] preys on single, black females who are in need of his assistance. This is not the first time I’ve had to interview [Mechanic].”
The report also said Mechanic “has a documented history of this type of behavior” and that “this is indicated by the number of witnesses who gave statements that are unassociated with this incident.”
This report, by Ethan Barton, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.