The town of Tisbury has placed a wastewater treatment plant employee on paid leave and negotiated his resignation, after an independent investigator found 17 separate violations of workplace rules. As a result of the incident the town is also taking steps to put in place a stricter set of protocols, including education and training, to prevent sexual harassment and bullying.

Complaints against the employee, Phil Dwyer, stretch from Nov. 15, 2013, just a few months after he was hired, to Jan. 29 of this year. Managers at the treatment plant did little or nothing to address the escalating problems, according to the investigator’s report obtained by the Gazette.

The report documents in detail complaints of harassment toward another employee, including shutting her ankle in a door and striking her with a town vehicle as a form of intimidation. It also details an incident currently under investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in which Mr. Dwyer allegedly dumped a large amount of treated but not disinfected wastewater into a plant parking lot.

Also faulted in the investigator’s report were Department of Public Works director Glenn Mauk, plant superintendent Steve Vancour and plant manager Paul Ernst who, according to the report, violated workplace rules by repeatedly failing to enforce the town’s sexual harassment policy.

The investigator hired by the town is Arthur A. Parker Jr., a former police chief in the towns of Carver and Williamstown, who now conducts administrative and internal investigations for municipalities. He submitted a 72-page report to the town at a cost of approximately $16,000 to date, which recommended “appropriate discipline including termination for the most egregious issues and for numerous violations.” He also recommended remedial training on workplace rules, personnel administration training for supervisors and amendments to the town’s personnel manual to address bullying behavior.

Speaking to the Gazette this week, Tisbury town administrator John (Jay) Grande, who also serves at the town personnel director, said the recommendations have not yet been put into effect because the investigation remains ongoing.

According to a settlement agreement negotiated by the town and signed on May 11, Mr. Dwyer agreed to resign and never seek employment with the town again. He also agreed not to sue the town or any of its officials. The town agreed to pay Mr. Dwyer his regular salary through June 30 including all accrued vacation time, and 25 per cent of unused sick time. Mr. Dwyer agreed not to seek unemployment benefits before June 30, and the town agreed not to oppose an application for unemployment benefits if he files after June 30.

Minutes of a Tisbury selectmen’s meeting on Oct. 14, 2014, well after allegations of harassment and assault against Mr. Dwyer began, show that selectmen voted to grant Mr. Dwyer a merit step raise based on the recommendation of Mr. Mauk and Mr. Vancour. At the time of his resignation, Mr. Dwyer earned $22.71 per hour plus benefits, a rate which works out to an annual salary of $47,200 for a 40-hour week.

This week Mr. Grande responded to some questions by e-mail, but declined to answer others. He would not say whether the three department supervisors were disciplined, whether any of the incidents were referred to police as suggested by the investigator, or when Mr. Dwyer was placed on paid administrative leave.

“I cannot comment on the matters protected by personal privacy and personnel matters,” the town administrator wrote.

Mr. Mauk, the DPW director, declined comment.

Many of the allegations against Mr. Dwyer came from the female wastewater department employee. Mr. Dwyer was hired in June of 2013 as a Grade 4 wastewater operator; the other employee began as a seasonal worker at the wastewater treatment plant at about the same time. She was later hired as a laborer.

The report details an ongoing pattern of harassment that violated workplace rules and sometimes created a dangerous working environment, ranging from refusing to communicate, hiding tools and boots, and shutting lights off. The investigator found the other employee’s allegations to be credible, and frequently characterized Mr. Dwyer’s actions as retaliation.

Two incidents were outside the original scope of Mr. Parker’s investigation, but added later following interviews with witnesses. In the first incident, Mr. Parker wrote that Mr. Dwyer repeatedly harassed a Federal Express driver in the summer of 2014.

In the second incident, on Jan. 29 of this year, Mr. Dwyer was accused of draining a tank containing treated but not yet disinfected wastewater into the DPW parking lot. According to the report, the majority of the tank’s 2,700-gallon capacity was piped out an open door and pumped onto the ground. The wastewater flooded an area where fuel pumps were located and forced employees to walk through puddles of unsanitary water to get to their vehicles.

No town official notified DEP until Mr. Grande notified state regulators 30 days after the incident, according to the report. The DEP investigation is still pending and the town could face sanctions.

“The willful disregard of DEP regulations resulting in the illegal discharge of untreated wastewater in the DPW lot cannot be understated,” the investigator wrote. “The seriousness of this matter cannot be dismissed.”

The investigator said if supervisors had acted sooner and followed town workplace rules and policies, the problems might not have escalated.

“This investigation has discovered major violations of the workplace rules,” Mr. Parker wrote in part. “Dwyer’s behavior created a hostile work environment . . . . perhaps early intervention may have stopped it.”

Mr. Grande said this week that he intends to follow up on the recommendations to provide sexual harassment training and personnel administration training for supervisors and update the town’s personnel manual, but much of that work has yet to begin.

“In the climate of the investigation and the personnel process the time for doing that was not now,” Mr. Grande said. “It was at the conclusion of this process, and I don’t consider the process concluded. On the advice of town counsel I have not yet implemented the training program.”

He said he has distributed the town’s sexual harassment policy to every employee, as required by law.