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UPDATED: What Does It Take To Get Fired From the City?

UPDATED: What Does It Take To Get Fired From the City?

What more could it possibly take to determine a violation of the City's sexual harassment policies? How about falsifying a resume?

Nearly Impossible to Get Canned at CABQ?

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

Albuquerque taxpayers will pay $185,000 to settle a lawsuit against a city official who told a female employee that his city desk was shaped like a penis, made hand gestures mimicking masturbation, sent the woman a sexually suggestive birthday card, repeatedly hugged her, allegedly kissed her and suggested she go to his house.

The defendant in the case, Mark A. Shepherd, is a retired APD cop and the manager of the Division of Security and Parking Enforcement in the city’s Department of Municipal Development. The case was filed against the city and Shepherd in April 2015. It was settled on Feb. 3, according to Bernalillo County District Court records.

Attorney Michael Cadigan represented the plaintiff, Naomi Parada, and confirmed that the city agreed to pay $185,000 to settle the case.

According to the lawsuit, Shepherd’s harassment of Parada began in October 2013 when she was assigned to Shepherd’s division.

‘Shepherd frequently and repeatedly made hand gestures mimicking masturbation while talking on the phone’ – allegation in sexual harassment lawsuit

“Shepherd frequently and repeatedly made hand gestures mimicking masturbation while talking on the phone,” according to the lawsuit. “These gestures were directed at the attention of Parada.”

“In 2014,” the lawsuit continued, “Parada was filing something away in a filing cabinet. While her back was turned, Shepherd sneaked up behind her. When Parada turned around, Shepherd kissed her on the lips, against Parada’s will.”

The lawsuit alleged that in 2014, when Parada informed Municipal Development Director Michael Riordan that Shepherd had kissed her, Riordan did nothing. In October of that year, after Shepherd sent Parada a sexually suggestive birthday card, again Parada went to Riordan. On Oct. 24, Parada was transferred to a different department, a move the lawsuit alleged was retaliation.

An internal city investigation determined in early 2015 that Shepherd had indeed committed many of the harassing acts that Parada had accused him of. “He [Shepherd] admitted to making ‘wanking’ gestures to customers and complaints he found annoying,” the hearing officer’s report said. “These gestures have been offensive to some female employees.”

The hearing officer recommended that Shepherd receive a three-day suspension that was to be held in abeyance.

‘I do think that Mr. Shepherd used poor judgment in some of the behavior described by women in the office (not just Ms. Parada), including inappropriate hugging, remarks and gestures, and giving an employee an inappropriate birthday card’ – city hearing officer

“I do think that Mr. Shepherd used poor judgment in some of the behavior described by women in the office (not just Ms. Parada), including inappropriate hugging, remarks and gestures, and giving an employee an inappropriate birthday card,” the hearing officer found. “However, I did not find any of the allegations, separately or collectively, amounted to enough evidence to prove a violation of the [city’s sexual harassment policy].”

Shepherd, who makes $93,059 a year, did not return a telephone message left with his assistant in his office in city’s Municipal Development Department.

History of problems

It wasn’t the first time Shepherd had been in trouble for violating city policy. In April 2008, he faced a four-week suspension for improperly allowing four to five Security Division supervisors to use city vehicles as take-home cars, according to the city’s investigative report.

A 2004, an internal city investigation found that Shepherd made “misrepresentations” on his application for the job of DMD security manager. He got the job but resigned after an investigation found several problems with the hiring process.

Shepherd stated in his application that he had worked full-time as the manager of security services for a private company, ACMI, from June 1993 through September 2004, when he was a full-time Albuquerque police officer.

But an investigator called the firm and was told that the company had actually hired Shepherd in July 1994 as a part-time route merchandiser – a person who “services vending machines and collects money from them,” the investigator’s report said.

“This does not appear to be security-related work,” the investigator wrote. “I find that Mr. Shepherd did not truthfully represent his work experience.”

The investigation found other problems with the hiring process.

“Reviewing city officials should have scrutinized Mr. Shepherd’s statements regarding his work experience more carefully,” the investigative report said. “His application representation that he worked two full-time jobs simultaneously from 1993 to his retirement from APD appears on its face improbable, yet it was accepted at face value by both the original DMD qualifying individual and the Human Resources analyst.”

Shepherd listed then-city Public Safety Director Nick Bakas as a reference on his resume. But Bakas was one of the people who interviewed Shepherd for the job he was applying for, which was another irregularity, the investigation said.

The investigator concluded that Shepherd “knowingly made false statements in his application.”

ABQ Free Press emailed City Hall spokeswoman Rhiannon Schroeder and asked why Shepherd is still employed by the city and if the city condones his behavior regarding Parada. Schroeder said she was looking into the matter but did not get back to the newspaper.

UPDATED March 25, 2016:

On March 25, Schroeder emailed ABQ Free Press this statement about the case:
“Here is a quote from Michael Riordan you can feel free to use when you write an article.
“The City of Albuquerque takes allegations of misconduct in the workplace very seriously. While the allegations were very troubling, after a thorough investigation, the City did not believe it would sustain a termination or demotion through our personnel board and employee appeal process. However, the City strives for the highest level of professional conduct by employees and required Mr. Shepherd to attend sensitivity training and all employees under Mr. Shepherd’s supervision periodically met with the City’s Human Right’s office over a period of time to monitor whether any issues remained. In an effort to resolve this case without further litigation, the City entered into a no-fault settlement with the plaintiff.”

Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Anonymous
    March 26, 2016, 8:01 am

    So ABQ City Attorney and APD knowingly wave criminal charges and bypass the City Employee disciplinary (City Charter and City Ordinances) process.

    The time has passed for the City Council to kick Rob Perry, Mike Riordan, Jessica Hernandez, Gorden Eden and APD top Brass out of their public meetings for their illegal activities.

    REPLY
  • It’s hard to get fired from CABQ | The New Mexico Tribune - New Mexico News & More
    March 26, 2016, 11:12 am

    […] the news from our friends at the ABQ Free Press which outlined the story of Mark A. Shepherd and how much the city settled […]

    REPLY
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Lex Voytek is a nervous wreck and reading quiets the noise. Reach her at books@freeabq.com.