Tim Williams, the director of the Astoria Parks and Recreation Department, is under investigation by the city for sexual harassment.
Documents provided to The Astorian show that a woman who works with Williams told the city in November that his behavior was inappropriate and upsetting. The woman described how Williams, her supervisor, hugged her in a sexually suggestive manner and tried to discuss his pornography problem and fetishes with her.
Before the city could interview Williams, he requested leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act. The investigation is on pause while Williams is on leave, but the city wants to question him.
City Manager Brett Estes declined to comment on the substance of the investigation. But he said in a statement that the city takes prompt remedial action when interpersonal issues arise among staff.
“In Mr. Williams’ case, further investigation was initiated and when Mr. Williams was asked to participate in a scheduled interview he took protected leave and declined to do so,” Estes said.
“The city cannot legally compel his cooperation during protected leave. As soon as he is off protected leave, Mr. Williams will be required to answer questions needed to conclude the investigation. At that point the city will be fully informed and able to make fair and appropriate decisions.
“Until then, on advice of the city’s lawyers, we can say nothing further.”
Mayor Bruce Jones said in a statement that the “city believes all employees deserve a respectful, professional work environment, and takes complaints of unprofessional behavior and harassment seriously. We act swiftly to investigate and, if warranted, take appropriate measures calculated to be effective and ensure professionalism at the city.
“When these efforts are not successful, employees who fail to meet the city’s standards of professionalism are terminated.”
Williams could not be reached for comment.
Jonah Dart-McLean, the city’s parks maintenance supervisor, is leading the parks department in Williams’ absence.
Descriptions of Williams’ behavior, along with documents relating to the investigation, were provided to The Astorian by sources who requested anonymity to discuss their concerns about how the city handles personnel issues.
Williams was hired to replace Angela Cosby, who left for a parks job in Colorado in 2018. Under Cosby, the city made a difficult transition toward a budget intended to reflect the true costs of running the sprawling parks department, which is responsible for interests as varied as the Astoria Riverwalk, the Astoria Aquatic Center, Lil’ Sprouts Academy and the Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton.
Williams grew up in rural southeast Idaho and worked for several parks departments, most recently in Roswell, New Mexico. He moved to Astoria with his wife and the three youngest of his six children.
Before the claims of sexual harassment surfaced, others at the parks department had voiced concerns about Williams not long after he started work last January.
Documents indicate the city had conversations with Williams about his behavior and keeping his comments appropriate. The documents refer to hugs between Williams and an employee at the parks department that were not obviously sexually charged, but exceeded the bounds of workplace professionalism and led to Williams’ taking harassment training online. The city also retained an organizational expert to address the work relationship between Williams and the employee.
In mid-November, documents show, the employee contacted the city’s human resources assistant on a co-worker’s behalf after hearing her account of how Williams’ hugged her suggestively and wanted to discuss his pornography problem.
Soon after, the woman who claims Williams was sexually harassing her met with the human resources assistant and the city’s labor attorney at City Hall. In an interview that lasted several hours, documents show the woman outlined how Williams’ increasingly intimate texts and physical displays of affection progressed from side hugs to more suggestive embraces and comments.
At first, the woman told the city, she and others wrote off Williams’ behavior as quirky.
Williams had offered her advice and seemed interested in helping her succeed at work, she said. But his behavior began to disturb her and she said he did things she felt were manipulative and designed to confuse her or put her in a bad light with others, documents show. She said she was afraid she could lose her job.
The woman said she told Williams his actions were inappropriate, but his behavior continued.