Alexandria officials announced yesterday they are investigating allegations of misconduct against Human Rights Administrator Stephen M. Levinson.
Levinson was locked out of his office and put on administrative leave March 21 after being told sexual harassment charges were pending against him, Levinson's attorney, Philip J. Hirschkop, said.
Frank C. Morris, a private attorney hired to represent the city in the issue, said the action was taken against Levinson because of the "level of severity" of the charges. He emphasized that no disciplinary action has been taken and that Levinson is still on the payroll.
Neither Hirschkop nor the city would discuss details of the complaints.
A five-year city employe and former human rights director for Worcester, Mass., Levinson is paid $42,000 a year to ensure that city employes are not discriminated against on the basis of race, sex or religion.
Hirschkop said he thinks City Manager Vola Lawson is using the "ridiculous allegations" to fire Levinson, an appointee of former city manager Douglas Harman.
"I think some members of the city government harbor ill feelings against him," Hirschkop said, because of the way Levinson handled a 1983 sexual harassment complaint against former planning director Engin Artemal.
"No matter how inaccurate or untrue [Hirschkop's] statements are, I cannot comment," Lawson said, because personnel matters are confidential.
Morris said the complaints that led to Levinson's suspension are "unrelated" to the 1983 complaint. He said after Levinson responds to the allegations, the city will decide what disciplinary action, if any, will be taken.
Several city employes said they were shocked that city officials removed Levinson from his job before investigating the matter, and said they were particularly perturbed that the locks on Levinson's office were changed March 21.
"I personally feel the process was abused," said Jeanne Connell, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission. She said the commission will meet Tuesday to discuss the matter that has "upset and deeply concerned some members."
Harman, who resigned last year to become city manager of Fort Worth, said last year that the 1983 harassment charge had been handled properly. Artemal, he said, was reprimanded "with a financial penalty and an administrative sanction."
But the two women who brought the 1983 complaint, budget analyst Elizabeth McKenna and management analyst Patricia Enneking, contended in a new complaint filed last year that Levinson failed to investigate the charges properly and was trying to keep them quiet. They also alleged that Harman and then-deputy city manager Bradford Hammer did not take the harassment charge seriously when they learned of the incident, which the women said occurred at a city conference in Williamsburg.
In its investigation of the second complaint last year, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission found no misconduct on Levinson's part, City Attorney Des Calley said. At McKenna and Enneking's request, Calley said, the EEOC will schedule a rehearing of the case.