Controversy in Winooski where the Police Chief has been reinstated and the City Manager who suspended him now finds himself facing scrutiny. Why City Manager Josh Handverger suspended the Chief remains a mystery. But Channel 3 has learned Handverger has a history of employment problems. City officials we spoke with did not know about the City Manager's past, until we told them Monday night. Tuesday came news Chief Steve McQueen is going back to work Wednesday.
"Obviously I'm really excited to get back after my two-week vacation," said McQueen.
Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen is gratified, but still tight-lipped about the investigation into his on-the-job conduct. The long-time Chief will be heading back to work Wednesday. But he's still under investigation.
"Well, I would say that if (Handverger) believes that he needs to continue the investigation, uh, welcome it!" said McQueen.
City Councilors met in emergency executive session Tuesday afternoon to talk about the situation, but released no details about allegations against McQueen. A written statement to the media says City Manager Josh Handverger did not think it was fair to keep McQueen from work while the investigation continues for up to 3 more weeks.
"And we are not at liberty to make any comments about what we discussed behind closed doors," said Mayor Mike O'Brien.
Officials also avoided comment about what Channel 3 learned about City Manager Josh Handverger's history of employment problems-- including allegations of sexual harassment and stalking. A former human resources assistant in Sutton, Massachusetts-- where Handverger was town manager last year-- alleged that he sexually harassed her by showing her porn and threatened to fire her.
Her filing with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination says: "He knew when he called me into his office that he had a computer screen filled with pornography ... " "... Handverger ... threaten(ed) me with termination for informing the (board of selectmen) ..."
Channel 3 has also learned that Handverger was responsible for firing two other employees in Sutton. One of them sued and there was an out-of-court settlement.
Channel 3 has also learned that Colchester Police investigated a woman's complaint late last year that Handverger had harassed her with email and text-messages after they stopped dating. No charges were filed.
We asked Handverger about these allegations, but he declined comment.
"Unfortunately, I can't because it is still current litigation, pending litigation in Massachusetts and because of the nature of litigation I'm unable to respond at this point," said Handverger.
Channel 3 has also learned that two other Winooski city employees are alleging being targeted by Handverger, and one has gone to the state Human Rights Commission. As for the former Sutton, Massachusetts employee who claims sex harassment-- she is now suing the town and Josh Handverger for damages.
There is no set timetable for what will happen next in Winooski. Handverger is hiring a private investigator to look into his concerns about Chief McQueen and expects that investigation to take up to three weeks.
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns had done a background check on Handverger when he was hired. A spokesman for the VLCT says they found nothing in civil or criminal records to indicate a problem.
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