By Pat Cooper
It looks like another upper echelon fire official has taken early retirement as a result of an investigation into charges of sexual harassment filed.
Fire Chief Edwin Eiswerth has tendered his retirement papers after EEOC charges of sexual harassment and retaliation were filed against him by a female firefighter.
In an official statement, Peachtree City’s Public Information Officer Betsy Tyler said:
“The City can confirm that the City Manager accepted Chief Eiswerth’s resignation effective Tuesday, December 18, 2012, and he is out on leave until the end of the year.
“The City first became aware of allegations on Monday, December 17, and is still investigating this matter and gathering facts. The City has a very strong policy prohibiting workplace harassment and similar conduct, and has taken an aggressive stance to prohibit and remedy such conduct in the past.
“Any further response or other comments regarding the allegations would be premature at this time.”
Councilman George Dienhart said he wanted everything to get out in the open and reassured anyone coming forward that there would be no retaliation or retribution for stepping up with information.
The complaint was filed by Martine Piers, 49, on December 13, alleging incidents going back as far as Piers volunteer work with the department starting back in 2007. She became a full time member of the department in 2010. Piers accuses Eisworth of more than vigorously pursuing sexually both on the job and through texts to her cell phone as well as trying to accost her in her own room during a Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VFCOS) conference in November 2011.
Underscoring the severity of the charges made in Piers’s complaint, in a memo to Eiswerth from city manager James Pennington on Friday, the former chief was advised that had he not resigned “there is a very good chance that I would have initiated disciplinary proceedings against you.”
Pennington said that when Eiswerth told him on Monday, December 17, that he had decided to resign, Pennington didn’t know the circumstances relating to the EEOC charge.
“While the city’s investigation into the allegations of the charge is far from complete, I am now substantially more informed on the matter.”
As a result of his discussions with Eiswerth and the investigation facts which have been revealed, Pennington said he didn’t believe it was appropriate for the city’s records “to reflect that your separation from the city was strictly a ‘voluntary’ resignation unrelated to any misconduct on your part. Accordingly, this is to inform you that for purposes of the city records, your resignation will be classified as ‘resignation while under investigation’.”
Additionally, Pennington said he could find no facts or circumstances thus far which would justify postponing the effective date of the resignation. As a result, the Eisworth’s resignation became effective as of close of business on Tuesday, December 18.
This is the second time this year that the city’s fire department has been rocked with scandal. In March, assistant Chief Peki Prince took an early retirement as a result of an investigation into charges of sexual harassment filed against her.
An outside entity investigating the matter didn’t find Prince guilty of the harassment charge but instead found her in violation of the Conduct Unbecoming sections of the city’s personal conduct policy.
The charges resulted after Prince was accused of groping three co-workers at the department’s installation dinner in January.
Additionally, Peachtree City is battling an EEOC complaint involving the city’s police department.
In February 2011 an EEOC complaint was filed by city employee Lisa Ficalore against police chief H.C. “Skip” Clark on grounds of discrimination due to gender and disabilities. Since that time, two amendments have been filed to the original charge.