Tim Williams, the director of the Astoria Parks and Recreation Department, resigned Friday after an investigation concluded he violated the city’s policy against harassment.
The investigation described Williams and a woman who worked with him at the parks department as “willing co-participants” in hugs, suggestive text messages and an exchange about help after Williams’ disclosed his pornography problem. Their dialogue ended in November after Williams sought to talk with her about his fetishes.
The report found that Williams initiated and pursued a course of behavior with the woman that was improper and amounted to repeated and flagrant violations of city policy.
“Williams violated the trust reposed in him by the city when he was appointed as department head to a position of senior executive management and leadership responsibility,” according to the May 12 report, which was obtained by The Astorian through the state’s public records law. “By any standard he committed serious misconduct, failed as a leader responsible for the welfare of subordinate employees as well to safeguard the interests of the city and the community.”
Williams, who has been on leave since allegations about his behavior surfaced in November, could not be reached for comment.
The city said the woman who voiced concerns about his behavior voluntarily resigned. She declined to comment.
In the report, Akin Blitz, a Portland labor attorney who conducted the investigation for Astoria, concluded that both the woman and Williams engaged in job-related misconduct. The report alleges the woman made a false claim for about $3,000 in overtime.
The woman told the city in November that Williams behavior toward her was inappropriate and upsetting. The report found, however, that the woman did not tell Williams that his conduct was unwelcome.
“(She) encouraged and was a willing participant in a relationship of mutuality,” the report determined.
But, the report maintained, “None of the circumstances diminish Williams’ ultimate and primary responsibility for all (that) occurred.”
The woman has said that she did not ask for attention from Williams. She said Williams encouraged her to apply for a larger role within the parks department and seemed to support her. But she said his behavior toward her turned inappropriate and he did things to paint her in a bad light. She also said she worried about losing her job.
Williams was hired as parks director in January 2019.
Within a few months, his behavior drew the attention of human resources. According to documents prepared as part of the city’s investigation, Williams’ conduct with another woman who worked at the parks department exceeded the bounds of workplace professionalism and led to Williams taking harassment training online. The city also brought in an organizational expert to help with the work relationship between Williams and the employee.
Williams, who has worked for several parks departments and came to Astoria from a post in Roswell, New Mexico, was hired to replace Angela Cosby as parks director. Cosby left the city in 2018 for a parks job in Colorado.
The parks department had shifted to a new budgetary model that reflects the true costs of running programs and facilities like the Astoria Aquatic Center, maintaining parks and other operations. City Manager Brett Estes had hoped Williams would help streamline internal processes and procedures as the department rebuilt.
Estes said the city conducts vigorous background checks before hiring department directors. He said he remains confident in the vetting process as the city seeks to hire a new parks director.
Jonah Dart-McLean had been serving as acting parks director while Williams was on leave. He will serve as interim parks director.
“We just need to continue our due diligence to gather as much information as we can during the recruitment process,” Estes said.
The new director will face the challenge of steering the parks department out of the havoc created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now, we’re in a whole new world,” Estes said.