Andover withholds Fahey investigation report

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May 29—ANDOVER — Town officials responded to a public records request for a report detailing the private investigation into former Youth Services Director Bill Fahey by turning over a nearly 100% redacted document, save for the employee handbook and a two-page contract.

Since the request for the public document was made by The Eagle-Tribune on May 13, Town Manager Andrew Flanagan has promised to release the report, warning that it would be "heavily" — not completely — redacted.

However when the newspaper received the 140-page report — for which the town paid Regina Ryan of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions $13,425 — all text about the investigation itself was blacked out.

This leaves the reason for the investigation, the nature of Fahey's misconduct, who the investigator interviewed, and many other questions up in the air.

Fahey was quietly suspended by the town in February while the investigation into his unspecified misconduct was underway.

Prior to the town's investigation, District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office and the Massachusetts State Police conducted their own investigation and "determined that the allegations did not rise to the level of criminal conduct," according to Carrie Kimball, spokesperson for the office.

The DA's investigation was prompted by a complaint made to the Andover Police Department, she said.

On May 10, Flanagan ended Fahey's suspension and officially fired him.

In order to receive his copy of the report, Fahey was required to sign a nondisclosure agreement, he announced in a video posted on social media earlier this month.

Around the same time he told the newspaper that even after reading the report, "I still don't know why I was fired."

In a statement Friday, Flanagan said Fahey's contract gave him the right to be provided the specifics of why he was dismissed — and therefore to read the report. However, he stated, "the report also contains extremely personal, private information about others as to which there is no right to make a public disclosure."

Fahey cleaned out his office at the Cormier Youth Center with much fanfare May 13, even inviting the press for a photo opportunity. Throughout, he has maintained he did nothing wrong.

Since, residents have rallied around the 27-year town employee, flooding the newspaper with letters to the editor in his support. They overwhelmingly point to politics, claiming Flanagan had personal reasons for firing him.

"As a lot of us know, Andrew (Flanagan) and Bill (Fahey) have butted heads and it seems like this is just yet another part of this battle," said Pete Michelinie, a former Andover resident who participated in the youth services program, at a May 17 Select Board meeting.

Michelinie was one of more than two dozen people who voiced their opinions to board members and called for transparency as to exactly what happened.

Around Andover signs reading "we believe in AYS" (Andover Youth Services) and "we believe in Fahey" have been posted by his supporters.

Until Thursday, the signs could be seen on both private and public property, but those on town land have since been taken down.

In explaining why Flanagan wrote in a text, "The town removes all non-town signage from right of ways."

However other signs, such as the Colleen Ritzer inspire kindness ones, have been allowed to remain.

Having received the blacked-out 140-page report in which only the 34-page employee handbook and two-page employee contract were not redacted, The Eagle-Tribune appealed its public document request to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office.

Along with the blacked-out document the town clerk signed and sent a letter citing "personnel" reasons for not disclosing any of the investigation.

"This report has been redacted on the advice of counsel in conformity with two exemptions provided for in State law," Austin Simko wrote. "I appreciate the public's interest in this matter but recognize that these two distinct exemptions apply to this matter and serve to protect the privacy of those persons who spoke to the investigator, the integrity of this and future investigations, and employee privacy."

He also stated, "Further, the information in this report easily meets the three-factor test that (1) 'disclosure would result in personal embarrassment to an individual of normal sensibilities,' that (2) 'the materials sought contain intimate details of a highly personal nature,' and that (3) the same information is not available from other, public sources."

Every page of the redacted report is marked "confidential — subject to an NDA," referencing the nondisclosure agreement Fahey signed.

The suspension preceding his firing was not the first time Fahey ran into trouble with the town. In 2017 he was suspended for two months because he failed to adequately supervise an employee.

At the time, Flanagan said he led the administrative investigation that determined a former Youth Services employee engaged in inappropriate conduct toward two program participants. Though the conduct did not violate criminal law, he said, it was "highly improper."

He said that despite "management's (Fahey's) awareness that the conduct had occurred, inadequate steps were taken to address it or to prevent it in the future."

Fahey did not return a request for comment.

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