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Wednesday, June 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Parks supervisor fired for harassment of gay subordinate set to get job back, $100,000 settlement

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 5, 2019

A Spokane Parks and Recreation Department supervisor who was fired for his behavior toward a gay subordinate will get his old job back and, if City Council approves, a monetary settlement. Riverfront Park, which the department oversees, is shown on Sept. 13. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
A Spokane Parks and Recreation Department supervisor who was fired for his behavior toward a gay subordinate will get his old job back and, if City Council approves, a monetary settlement. Riverfront Park, which the department oversees, is shown on Sept. 13. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Months after the city fired him for his behavior toward a gay subordinate, a former Spokane Parks and Recreation Department supervisor will get his old job back and, pending City Council approval, a $100,000 settlement.

Adriano Eva has been on paid administrative leave since the Civil Service Commission ruled in April that his removal was unwarranted. Having exhausted its avenues of appeal of the commission’s decision, the city now says Eva is set to return to work in January.

Separately, the Spokane City Council will vote Monday on a proposed $100,000 settlement, decided through mediation, to resolve a claim Eva brought against the city for damages stemming from his punishment.

An investigation into Eva’s conduct began in October 2018 when Conor Wigert, a seasonal parks employee, alerted human resources officials that Eva had questioned him about his sexuality, including “how it worked to be attracted to another man.”

The city reviewed the allegations and found Eva had violated its harassment policies. He was first demoted, then laid off, until the Civil Service Commission ordered he be reinstated.

In anticipation of his return to a supervisory position in January, the city has had “counseling sessions” with Eva “about what’s appropriate as a supervisor,” said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

“We’ve been having discussions with him and employees in the department to ease that return to work,” Feist said.

Marshall Casey, an attorney representing Eva, said the city and Eva have had a “good working relationship so far” and are working together on a “good transition.”

“It seems like the city’s going to work hard and he’s going to work to ensure that he transitions back, with the goal being he does he come back and help take care of the citizens of Spokane,” Casey said.

Responding to questions about Eva supervising gay employees and avoiding similar complaints in the future, Casey said “he’ll go back to work, he’s going to follow what the city of Spokane wants from him. His goal is to serve the citizens of Spokane.”

You are different

Shortly after he began as Eva’s assistant, Eva told Wigert that “he knew I was gay” and stated that “he has love in his heart for all people, but that he believes what the Bible says,” Wigert wrote in an email to human resources.

“He asked me if he could ask questions and, not knowing how to tell my boss no, I agreed,” Wigert wrote.

Eva allegedly once told Wigert of a gay couple in his native country, Brazil, that would cut boys’ hair in exchange for sexual favors.

“I quickly explained to him that pedophilia and homosexuality are completely different, but it left me feeling completely demoralized for my boss to be making that comparison, even if he wasn’t meaning for it to be one,” Wigert wrote.

Eva disclosed Wigert’s sexual orientation to other employees.

“I want to think that it was just him trying to show how ok with it he is, but it serves as an othering position – you are different, and I’m ok with it, but you are different,” Wigert wrote.

After investigating the claim, the city found Eva had violated its general harassment and sexual harassment policies. He was demoted to a nonsupervisory role in December 2018. Because there were no openings available at the level to which he was demoted, Eva was ultimately laid off. He was placed on unpaid layoff status, meaning he would have the right to a position if one were to open up again.

Civil Service Commission

Eva appealed the city’s decision to the Civil Service Commission, which held hearings and unanimously ordered him reinstated. The commission found Eva had not willfully violated the city’s policies, nor had the city proven that Eva’s actions were unwelcome.

Casey noted that Eva had never been told his behavior made others feel uncomfortable.

“He’s a man of character who really does have love for many different people and really cares about them,” Casey said.

When the Civil Service Commission ordered Eva be reinstated, the city complied but immediately placed him on administrative leave while it conducted an appeals process.

The city asked the Civil Service Commission to reconsider its decision, but it declined to do so. It also appealed the decision to Superior Court, which declined to overturn the Civil Service Commission’s decision.

Eva was reinstated in April. He earned an annual salary of $70,929 in 2019 and remained eligible for benefits. He was not allowed to work a single day.

Eva’s claim against city

The exact text of the settlement between the city and Eva has not been publicly made available. However, in City Council documents, a summary of the settlement states that Eva would be awarded $100,000. The city would not admit or acknowledge any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, and Eva would give up any right he has to claims against Spokane.

Eva filed the claim for damages against the city in June, citing damages that included 18 weeks of back pay with interest, harm to future job prospects, fees for nine visits to a professional counselor and attorney fees.

By referencing his comments about the Bible to Wigert in justifying its actions, Eva claimed that the city had discriminated against him due to his religion. Eva also claimed that the city’s “biased” investigation into his conduct was based on “selective information” and left out key witnesses.

In its April letter of reinstatement to Eva, the city warned that Eva would be in violation of its anti-retaliation policy if he, among other things, made remarks “disparaging a person to others or in the media.”

Eva and his attorney interpreted that letter as a restriction on his ability to speak to the media, even as The Spokesman-Review and the Inlander were reporting on his alleged conduct.

While he believes he can’t speak freely about the situation, Eva’s claim against the city decried the participation of city officials in an April article in the Inlander that probed previous allegations of misconduct against Eva toward a subordinate.

Casey said Tuesday that he would advise his client to continue to remain silent until the city clarifies its position on what he is allowed to say.

Wigert

More than a year after he first aired his concerns, Wigert told The Spokesman-Review on Thursday that he had never expected himself to be in this situation.

“It’s been a long and hard process. I never had any intentions beside the fact of telling one of my coworkers that I was uncomfortable, and it went from there,” Wigert said.

Wigert no longer works for the city but said his departure is unrelated to Eva. Still, he said the result of the entire process is “hard to stomach,” but credited his coworkers with taking the complaint seriously.

“I’m not concerned that they won’t take all the steps to make sure it doesn’t happen moving forward, it’s just disheartening for the precedent it sets in general,” Wigert said. “Having gone through it now, I understand why it’s so hard to say anything in the first place.”

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