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Muni manager still on the job after multiple complaints alleging groping, bullying women

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San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency Fare Inspectors say they have made multiple complaints about one manager, but he remains on the job. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A manager who oversees Muni fare enforcement inspectors allegedly groped a subordinate and created a hostile work environment, leading to disarray in the agency’s Proof of Payment unit.

And despite at least three separate complaints filed in the last year prompting multiple investigations, he still remains on the job.

That’s according to one fare enforcement employee who came forward publicly to the Board of Supervisors in mid-September, and to a large group of current and former fare enforcement officers who spoke to the San Francisco Examiner.

Those fare enforcement officers requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from their managers.

“We’re scared,” one said.

As the Examiner has previously reported, Muni employees are coming forward in increasing number to accuse SFMTA’s internal investigations of failing to respond to sexual and racial discrimination complaints. Muni’s top official, John Haley, was also sued last month for alleged bullying and sexual harassment.

Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesperson, said according to the Department of Human Resources, the agency issued corrective actions for 57 out of 102 complaints made in the last fiscal year, though he did not describe the severity of those corrective actions. The agency has recently transferred responsibility for EEO complaints to the San Francisco Department of Human Resources, Rose added.

The fare enforcement inspectors, who came forward after previous stories, allege their assistant manager called one employee a “skank b——,” and told another subordinate “you want to f—- that girl, don’t you” in regards to an apparently underage girl who crossed the street in front of them. They describe a pattern of behavior that has led to extended leave time for fare enforcement officers, rippling out to affect the everyday transit of thousands of San Franciscans.

The manager in question, Nelson Williams, also came under fire in 2004 when he was a deputy sheriff. He was ordered to surrender his gun and stay away from a sergeant who accused him of threats, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story at the time.

“I will kick your f——— a—- and put your mother in the cemetery,” Williams allegedly told the sergeant.

In a Board of Supervisors hearing on racial and sexual discrimination in late September, fare enforcement officer Vernelle Gomez-Boyd described the actions of a manager she did not name. She later confirmed to the Examiner she was describing Williams.

“Our assistant manager has retaliated against us. He has said disgusting comments about women. There’s been sexual harassment in our department,” she said. “I have followed the chain of command. I usually don’t speak up. But these derogatory comments about women, there are five of us, it’s bad.”

Gomez-Boyd alleged Williams openly spoke about women in a sexual context in ways that offended women fare inspectors. Fare inspectors told the Examiner he also showed nude photos of women to colleagues at work.

Gomez-Boyd also said Williams’ behavior rippled out to affect Muni riders.

“You’re going to be shocked,” she said. “Out of 52 proof of payment officers, guess how much are working? Twenty-five. That’s it. And it’s because of this harassment, distress, everything we’re going through. Nothing is happening.”

Fare enforcement officers provided three documented complaints filed with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s internal investigators, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, known commonly as the EEO. They say the complaints about Williams’ behavior, including one alleging he groped a subordinate, have fallen on deaf ears.

They also said they brought their complaints directly to SFMTA’s top official, Ed Reiskin, and others along the chain of command, including Director of Sustainable Streets Tom Maguire. While they valued this open door policy, they said nothing had yet been done to shield them from Williams.

“We take these matters extremely seriously and follow the city’s EEO procedures to address personnel matters like these,” said Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesperson, in a statement. “While these allegations are serious, it would not be appropriate to comment any further on matters involving personnel.”

Williams also directly responded to the allegations.

“I have no comment. Frankly they are liars. The truth is not in them,” he told the Examiner by phone, Tuesday.

Complaints to the SFMTA about Williams reviewed by the Examiner detail a pattern of alleged harassment against his subordinates.

In one investigative timeline written as a summary of complaints, in January this year Williams allegedly repeatedly asked one subordinate to go out “for coffee and tea.” The subordinate said she felt uncomfortable with Williams’ requests. When she refused, he repeated those requests. After several attempts, the subordinate finally agreed to join him for coffee. While they were out, he asked her to be more “flexible” about her uniform.

Williams allegedly called and texted the woman subordinate on her day off.

The next month, in February, Williams allegedly harassed the subordinate “based on her weight,” and treated her “differently” when she returned from pregnancy leave.

When the subordinate complained her uniform jacket did not fit, she was instructed to speak to Williams about it. While in his office, Williams allegedly inappropriately touched the subordinate’s chest and arms in an apparent attempt to adjust the subordinate’s uniform, which was described to the Examiner as groping.

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