Documents: Argyle mayor accused of discrimination, harassment
ARGYLE — Two women have filed complaints with the state against the town of Argyle, accusing the mayor of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, including “inappropriate and unwelcomed physical gestures,” according to state documents.
Both filed U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints with the Texas Workforce Commission in early January in response to the alleged workplace harassment.
According to the documents, both women allege that Mayor Matt Smith harassed them and demoted them without fair reason.
Smith said the claims being made by the two women are unsupported, vindictive and political because of the upcoming May election.
“There’s no record of any complaints anywhere,” Smith said. “It’s all fabricated and they’re trying to sabotage me. I will take a polygraph tomorrow if I have to.”
Smith said Monday that he would not seek re-election, citing family issues. As of last fall, the mayor had indicated plans to seek re-election.
Carissa Finney, a former employee who filed one of the complaints, said she resigned from her position because Smith intimidated her repeatedly.
Finney worked as an administrative assistant and permit clerk and said she hopes to have her job reinstated.
“I loved my job and the people I worked with,” she said. “It would be nice to have it back.”
Last fall, during a period in which the Town Council appointed Smith as interim town manager, Finney said, Smith bullied her and retaliated against her by demoting her when she did not yield to his demands.
“From the day he got elected, we have been subjected to his childish antics,” Finney said. “And no one will speak up against him because they’re afraid of losing their jobs if they tell the truth.”
She said Smith tried to persuade her to dig into her co-workers’ lives to gather information on any activities the employees engage in outside of work that could get them into trouble.
“He even called me at night when I was at home. When I wouldn’t do that for him, he retaliated against me,” Finney said. “When I told him no, the sexual harassment escalated.”
Finney quit in November 2012, saying that Town Hall became a hostile environment because of Smith.
In response to an open records request, the town released copies of the two complaints, although the name of one complainant was withheld. According to the documents, that person, who held the human resource officer and town secretary titles, reported being unfairly demoted to only town secretary.
“There were no demotions,” Smith said. “[The employees] said there was too much on their plate to perform their jobs, so we shifted the job duties. There is no truth to what they’re saying. They have no proof.”
Ever since the two parties filed their complaints, Town Manager Charles West said, it is business as usual in regard to daily town operations.
“Business at Town Hall has not changed, and these complaints have had no effect on us at Town Hall,” he said.
But that could change depending on the outcome of the investigation and how the situation is resolved.
“The town has agreed to participate in the EEOC mediation process,” Town Attorney Matthew Boyle said. “We are hopeful that a mutually agreeable outcome can be achieved through the EEOC mediation process.”
According to an EEOC spokeswoman, the mediation process involves EEOC representatives attempting to help the employees and the employer reach a voluntary settlement.
The mediation allows both parties to talk about their concerns and suggest ways to solve problems and disagreements, the spokeswoman stated.
Finney said she wants Smith to be held accountable for his actions.
“He needs to see that he can’t get away with doing what’s he doing to the town employees,” she said.
If an employer refuses to cooperate with an EEOC investigation, the EEOC can issue an administrative subpoena to obtain documents, testimony or gain access to facilities and a lawsuit could be filed, which is a last resort.
The spokeswoman said charges usually are settled within three months through mediation compared with more than six months of investigation that result from disagreement between two parties.
The complaints are one chapter in a series of controversial events that have hit the town since fall and after former Town Manager Lyle Dresher retired in March 2012.
The town hired Rod Hogan to serve as interim town manager until a permanent replacement was found. However, the council voted to end his contract prematurely after council members said his performance was unsatisfactory.
In October 2012, the council appointed Smith as interim town manager with a 3-2 vote.
Council member Bonny Haynes, who opposed the appointment, said the idea to appoint Smith as interim town manager was never discussed prior to that meeting.
After Smith’s appointment, Haynes said she believed he wanted the appointment so he could have more administrative control over the employees.
“He wanted to get appointed as quickly as he could,” Finney said. “He wanted to make sure he could take his retaliation out on some of the employees.”
But Smith said it was to allow for smoother daily operation until a town manager was hired.
At the same meeting, however, after Smith’s appointment, Financial Director Kim Collins came under fire by Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Joey Hasty, each of whom accusing her of using unbudgeted funds to finance a retirement party for Dresher.
The council took no action against Collins and the accusations haven’t been brought up since.
After addressing Collins, Smith and Hasty publicly criticized Town Secretary Codi Delcambre’s job performance. According to the meeting’s agenda, the council was to discuss Delcambre’s duties and possible termination.
Fearful of losing her job, Delcambre hired a Denton-based attorney who argued that the council had no grounds to fire Delcambre.
Smith argued he had no intention to fire Delcambre, even though the agenda listed termination as a possible outcome.
Smith and Hasty said Delcambre was not performing her required duties, but the remaining council members said they had never heard of the complaints about Delcambre’s performance until that meeting.
Smith said Delcambre failed to perform her duties as town secretary. However, no documentation was presented to support his claims.
Hasty moved to place a disciplinary letter in Delcambre’s file, but he failed to get the second his motion needed to hold a vote.
Smith said the EEOC complaints stem from the events that occurred during that October meeting.
Controversy has followed Smith since he took office in 2011 and before.
Records show that in January 2011, four months before being elected as mayor, Smith was arrested in Flower Mound and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was placed on probation for 20 months and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service, according to documents from the Denton County clerk’s office.
In previous years, Smith was jailed for various misdemeanor charges including assault, deadly conduct and criminal mischief, according to county court records.
In 1995, he was charged with misdemeanor deadly conduct and was ordered to spend 90 days in Denton County Jail and six months on probation and perform 20 hours of community service, according to court records.
In July 1996, Smith was charged with misdemeanor assault and confined to 120 days in jail and given 22 months of probation, according to court records.
Ten months later, Smith was charged with misdemeanor assault and bodily injury. According to Argyle police reports, officers were dispatched in reference to a domestic dispute.
Those records reflect that one witness told police officers that Smith was “drunk and out of control.” According to a police report, Smith physically attacked his sister, who had a swollen right eye.
Court records show that Smith was ordered to go to drug and alcohol counseling and enter an anger management program.
Smith, who was in his 20s during the 1990s, says he recognized his mistakes and says that he was young but has since changed.
“Every complaint against me is a personal attack because they see me as an easy target because of my history,” Smith said. “It’s all petty and childish.”
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .