Exclusive: BPCA hired employment lawyer to investigate complaints by employees

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August 21, 2013- BatteryPark.TV exclusively reported on August 12th that an investigation was underway at the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) stemming from employee complaints about the President, Demetri Boutris, and other executives, being abusive to staff and making wrongful firings. Shortly thereafter, on Friday, August 16th, President Demitri Boutris abruptly resigned.

On Tuesday, August 20th, the BPCA board convened to discuss bond and budget matters, but no mention was made of the investigation or resignation of the president. When a New York Times reporter asked Chairman and CEO Dennis Mehiel about the issue, Mr. Mehiel flat out denied that any investigations was underway, or that any investigation caused Mr. Boutris to resign.

BatteryPark.TV has exclusively learned that the BPCA hired employment rights expert  Christopher D’Angelo of Vandenberg & Feliu LLP to internally investigate the merits of the employee complaints. BPCA employees in the main office were first interviewed, then parks employees on the grounds were questioned. Parks staff began raising accusations that President Boutris used the “N word” and was harassing to the staff, making unscheduled pop-up inspections, etc.

The finding that a large-scale internal investigation was in fact underway conflicts with Mr. Mehiel’s strong denial on August 20th, when he said to the NY Times reporter, “Let me answer you directly. I saw what the blogs said. It is completely false. There is no basis in truth, about what we saw in the blogs about letters to the sate…none of that…If you are asking me if there is any investigation that is either catalyzed by Demitri’s departure, or is his departure the result of some state investigation, let me, let me tell you without equivocation, the answer is “No”, and what you read in the blogs is completely inaccurate.”

This is not the first time that the BPCA has secretly hired a law firm, then denied it to the public. On September 11, 2012, BatteryPark.TV exclusively reported that the then President and CEO of the authority, Gayle Horwitz, had hired a litigation lawyer to challenge the Asphalt Green community center contract, and that this was the reason for the long delays in the opening of that $70 Million center. Prior to that reporting, the entire BPCA was attributing slow city permitting as the cause for delays. One day later, Ms. Horwitz resigned, but her staff of Matthew Monahan and Anne Fenton remained.

The lawyer leading the investigation into the employee complaints of this most recent scandal, Mr. D’Angelo, was not immediately available for comment. It is still unclear whether New York State or federal EEOC agencies were involved, and if not, why. Stay tuned for more details.

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