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Tarrytown Ambulance Corps Struggles with Sexual Harassment Allegations

Nine women who are either current or former members of the Tarrytown Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TVAC) have accused a male colleague of sexual harassment and plan to file a complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights today.

 

Nine women who are either current or former members of the Tarrytown Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TVAC) have accused a male colleague of sexual harassment. 

Their accusations were made in person or in writing at a meeting of the TVAC Board of Directors on Jan. 25, including testimony which detailed incidents of sexual harassment going back five years. The TVAC Board of Directors failed to either revoke the membership of the man, a 65-year-old Tarrytown resident who is a 17-year of veteran of the corps, or reinstate him after a six-month suspension for a related issue. His status remains in limbo as he is still a member but not on active duty.

Last year, the man, who is not being named in this article because he has not been charged with a crime, was suspended by TVAC. In addition, he was reprimanded for violating the patient privacy law, known as HIPPA, by taking photographs of a female patient, according to Jeffery Hammond, a Department of Health spokesperson.

In her written statement to the ambulance corps' board of directors, Monika Michon, a TVAC volunteer while she was an international student living in Tarrytown last year, said the man sat next to her on a couch and started rubbing her feet without permission. “I felt uncomfortable and pulled away. Another time he walked behind me and proceeded to touch my shoulders. I moved his hands away saying I didn’t like it.”

Michon also said she witnessed a disturbing incident involving a patient. “(The man) left the patient’s right breast fully exposed and visible. (He) was flirting…and complimenting her while still keeping the breast exposed. I felt very uncomfortable…and I put a sheet over her breast.”

In written testimony another woman said the man asked her “if she was wearing a bra, what kind of underwear she was wearing and described his preference in women.”

Allegations and anecdotes about the man's behavior abound. Other allegations of physical encounters have not been included in this story as they could not be independently verified. 

In response to the accusations, the man said he has filed a grievance with the TVAC board and “expects they will find these allegations without basis.” 

TVAC Chairman of the Board Joan C. Dobson and other board members declined to be interviewed for this story.

According to Detective Sergeant Eugene Buonanno of the Tarrytown Police Department, some of the incidents were reported to the police, but the women with whom he spoke did not want to file a formal complaint for “various personal reasons.”

However, three former members and three current members, said they expect to file a complaint of sexual harassment/discrimination and retaliation against TVAC with the New York State Division of Human Rights today.

"Sexual harassment doesn’t often rise to the level of a criminal complaint,” said Karen Zdanis, an attorney specializing in employment law and sexual harassment who represented some of the women during their testimony. “Someone putting their hands on your shoulders may not be a criminal offense, but it could still be considered sexual harassment.”

Starting in the 1970s, the federal courts began to recognize sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. Unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Other than participation in a small pension program administered by the Village of Tarrytown, TVAC is a completely independent organization. It operates with no money from taxes, owns its own building, vehicles and equipment, and depends on volunteers and donations.

As a result of the controversy, TVAC is losing members such as Sleepy Hollow resident Tom Johnson. 

"I was getting more and more uncomfortable with the board’s procrastination on the issue,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t a prudent delay.”

The four women interviewed for this article said they were reluctant to be identified, in part, for fear of retaliation by TVAC Captain Mike Farley, a member of the corps' board and an outspoken supporter of the accused. 

“Mr. Farley has created an unsafe, hostile environment for me and some female members of TVAC who came forward with sexual harassment complaints against [the man],” said Murat Turk, an EMT, TVAC officer, in a letter to the Board. Turk has taken a voluntary leave of absence.  

"If anyone has come to you about this, it’s because they are disgruntled,” said Farley during a telephone interview. Farley said there was one “serious” incident involving the man and a female corps member that was “dealt with to the satisfaction of all parties involved,” but dismissed the other allegations as “silly.”

After ignoring orders not to be alone with female members, the man was suspended in July, 2011, by the then-Captain, who is no longer an active member of the corps due to illness. It was this suspension that compelled the March vote by the Board of Directors and the testimony of the nine women before the board since TVAC bylaws state that suspensions can last no more than six months before a final decision to revoke or reinstate membership.

"These women were scared. It was a very tense meeting,” said Zdanis. “I asked the board members and one person in particular, to refrain from yelling or making faces during the testimony.” 

Zdanis said she was surprised that the board didn’t vote unanimously to revoke the man’s membership. “It appeared to me that at least some of the board members were taking it seriously."

wanda April 02, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Babsy (Mr.Hoyt) Who established the Village is not RESPONSIBLE and When and Who gave that ruling? Mr Shumejda ?
sherry burgman April 04, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Im sure it's a very difficult time for the good members of this organization. The captain from last year did the right thing and it must have been a very difficult decision. It is a very positive thing that the Tarrytown ambulance did. It appears to me as a reader that they were just taking the correct steps to solving this problem. They need more volunteers and less critics.
Truthhurts April 04, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I agree but i still say time for us to turn paid
Suzy April 04, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Well said, Sherry. The Captain from last year did the right thing to suspend the accused. She had more guts than Bobby Hoyt had when he was a captain. On the other hand, the "SILLY" captain Mike Farley is trying his best to get his buddy back. I will bet money, Farley will apologize for his "silly" comment. He should name his shop "Silly Mike's." Maybe he should hire the "accused" and have him give shoulder and foot massage. "Silly Mike's Massage Parlor". I am sure Bobby Hoyt will look the other way for Silly Mike's second unregistered business in town.
Truthhurts April 04, 2012 at 10:16 PM
What action did the other officers take if any?
Mark April 05, 2012 at 01:04 AM
The other website reported "Former Lt. and former Captain made the decision to suspend the man from the corps eight months ago. The suspension meant the accused member could not ride on calls, could not enter the Ambulance Corps building and could not communicate with corps members". If it was something so "silly" why did these officers suspend him and ordered him to stay away? Lets wait and see the full story on this. Who knows how many other little "silly" things we will read about him. So far we know about following "silly" allegations: ".......made inappropriate comments about their underwear, unwanted physical advances and photographed vulnerable female patients. In one case, the women said, he left an intoxicated patient’s breast exposed while he complimented the woman on her appearance.". I can almost imagine them in the court room "Your Honor, we were just being silly".... Captain Farley, you are a disgrace to this village for making that "silly" comment. These victims and their families deserve a public apology from you. That is the least you can do to show some decency.
Dana Sands April 05, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Thank goodness for the great reporting of Ms. Maranzano.This issues should be elevated at least to our county newspapers, if not to the NYTimes!
Michael April 05, 2012 at 01:28 PM
"The four women interviewed for this article said they were reluctant to be identified, in part, for fear of retaliation by TVAC Captain Mike Farley, a member of the corps' board and an outspoken supporter of the accused. " WOW! If this is true, the board should remove Mike Farley from his position as captain of TVAC.
Patsy M April 05, 2012 at 10:52 PM
No complaint of this nature can ever be branded as "silly." None of us can ever know the pain and embarrassment suffered by another person. None of us are that smart. Any complaint has to be investigated by the governing body of that organization. If the allegations involve superiors within that organization or the organization fails to act then the complaints must be escalated. Anyone that would dismiss a complaint before looking into does a grave injustice not only to those making the complaint but the organization they serve as well. Now we as citizens must wait for due process to take its course.
Truthhurts April 06, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Keep reading the comments and all this rant should be aimed at the person accused and the fact he needs help if guilty. Also is there a system to make sure criminals are not able to vol at any other town or fire department?? If not something has go be done so one cant move to Dutchess and join and do the same thing. This is why paid places like trans care or even Greenburgh EMS or Paid Firemen and Police have background checks. Time for Tarrytown to go in a paid professional direction. As I read while not sure who or what Dave Goldstien did but if he is a member of this ambulance or fireman and did a crime then any good in his past is void and should be band from ever being a member ANYWHERE again if innocent they both need appologies from this town but sounds as facts are showing guilt
william hart April 06, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Please don't paint everyone with the same brush. If the culprit- who I gather has not yet been charged- did anything inappropriate, he should be subject to criminal and civil sanction, through judicial proceedings, and not tried and convicted by the townspeople, whether it's on a blog or in the town square. I was once in the position of defending someone accused of wrongdoing in a small community and was accused of being in complicity, when I simply wanted all the facts to come out before the accused was condemned. I think that's only fair, and fair to the victims as well. (I'm not suggesting any of these allegations are fabricated, but sometimes that happens too- please let it play out through the appropriate channels). FWIW, although i no longer live in Westchester, I have known Mike (and his partner Chris) for a long, long time. Mike is a very consciensious guy and I really doubt that he'd either cover up wrongdoing, or reject allegations as 'silly.' Have you ever been misquoted? I'm sure the truth will come out and in the process, any wrongdoing exposed. In the meantime, I'm sorry for those embroiled in this mess and just ask you all to keep level-headed on this while it unfolds. I know Mike contributes an enormous amount of time and energy to the corps and hate to see him blackballed because of a statement attributed to him. Bill Hart Grandview
william hart April 06, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Michael: I simply asked that people use good conscience in making public judgments- the link you posted, describing psychopathic conditions and using illustrations of Ted Bundy doesn't really advance anything, and seems rashly judgmental- precisely what I was suggesting should be avoided.
DeeplyConcernedabout T-town April 06, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Folks, we cannot afford any more paid departments. To convict all of the other faithful volunteers is an insult! There is no need to jump on the paid bandwagon any time soon. Both the fire department and the ambulance corps can use new members. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Yes, it is a shame that this dragged on for so long. Taxes are high enough now without adding any more exspenses.
wanda April 07, 2012 at 02:38 AM
"If anyone has come to you about this, it’s because they are disgruntled,” said Farley during a telephone interview. Farley said there was one “serious” incident involving the man and a female corps member that was “dealt with to the satisfaction of all parties involved,” but dismissed the other allegations as “silly." What if the culprit was advancing on ( His partner Chris) would that be SILLY
Kerry April 07, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Mr Hart, You've spent all that time criticizing a waitress and trashing this restaurant (see below), yet you are telling people they can not write their opinion on this article, which was probably fact checked. You set a great example of hypocrisy, sir. Bill Hart says: July 6, 2011 "I avoided the place when it was the Skylark because it was dirty. After the new owners refreshed it, I started going there, sometimes regularly, for breakfast food. The service is uneven, and even though I usually leave a pretty big tip, the waitresses seem to care less. MIA when you need a refill of beverage, first course usually comes with the meal, even when you specify otherwise. Whatever. It’s not a serious restaurant, so you take that as part of the package. Today, I went in and ordered a western omlette. The waitress asked me if that was on the menu. I said I had no idea- why, didn’t she know what a western omlette was? If not, I could describe what i wanted. She got huffy, and said, we only take orders for what is on the menu. At that point, I asked the cook, who was two steps away behind the counter, if he knew what a western omlette was. He said of course. So, i ordered it. The waitress made sure that she didn’t bring my beverage too quickly. At the end of the meal, I told the owner that i usually leave a nice tip, but that the waitress’s attitude was unwelcoming. He could have cared less……"
william hart April 07, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Kerry: There is a big difference between my review of a restaurant based on my actual experience and an opinion about the guilt or innocence of a person based on something neither you, nor I witnessed. That difference is not just a matter of degree of importance, ie was the restaurant dirty or the waitress rude v is someone guilty of sexual harrassment, or covering it up, but also one of quality of the evidence itself- my direct experience is good, ie, 'admissible' evidence; my opinion, or yours regarding the ultimate guilt or innocence of someone accused of misconduct when neither of us witnessed it, is less reliable, hearsay and conclusory. I did offer my insight into Mike's character, since I know him to be conscientious and a law and order type personality. And sign my name to what I write, to be accountable. My urging that people not make a rush to judgment is far from hypocritical by comparison.
Kerry April 07, 2012 at 03:50 PM
William- I know some of the women who had the courage to come forward. Based on their reports, there were at least 5 people who were afraid of retaliation by Mike Farley. We will find out the facts after their legal battle. "The four women interviewed for this article said they were reluctant to be identified, in part, for fear of retaliation by TVAC Captain Mike Farley, a member of the corps' board and an outspoken supporter of the accused. "
william hart April 07, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Kerry: I have faith in the system, and trust that the truth will be determined through the appropriate administrative or judicial processes, and not by the media or on the Internet. I think that is the only fair way for all concerned. Best, Bill Hart
Truthhurts April 08, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Paid is and does not mean higher taxes and in light of all the trouble and lawsuits may be safer and cheaper as well as the training is better which makes for a safer community
Suzy April 10, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Mr Hart, Did you read this report?; ....."according to current and former male and female TVAC members, the man’s inappropriate behavior was known and reported to TVAC leadership on numerous occasions between 2005 and 2010. It is unknown what, if any, disciplinary action was taken, but the man remained on active duty until his suspension last year. The lack of decisive action on the part of the TVAC Board of Directors is frustrating to some of the women making the accusations. “We gave statements to one of the lawyers on the Board over the summer. We were evaluated by a therapist to show we weren’t lying and then we gave testimony before the Board. What else do we have to do to be taken seriously?” asked one of the women.... Shame on your friend Mike Farley, who calls these accusations "silly".
william hart April 10, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Suzy, I have not read the report you are referring to, nor am I reaching any ultimate conclusions over anyone's culpability here- as I said, if there was wrongdoing, it should be addressed and remedied in a way which accords everyone involved the opportunity to present the facts and have them determined by the appropriate administrative and/or judicial authorities. All I was suggesting was that trying anyone in the press or via Internet comments is not fair and further, that knowing Mike Farley personally, I know him to be a conscientious man who has strong respect for both law and order. I merely asked that people refrain from passing judgment until all the facts are in and determined in a way that affords due process to all concerned.
wanda April 10, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Mr Fart Then maybe you should have your friend make an apology about his comments and lack of concern .Also you should go out to dinner with Mike and (Chris) and review the sexual harassment policy.Just how much monies does this not for profit Corp make a year and who's watching ?
Truthhurts April 10, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Yes they do bring in a lot but the cost is high as well this I know so are you claiming miss use of funds now??? If so proof if not like you have stated to others WATCH YOUR WORDS
Suzy April 10, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Wanda, that is a very good question. I would like to know if my donations to a "non profit" organization were spent appropriately. I hope this does not become another big scandal for TVAC.
Mark April 10, 2012 at 11:46 PM
William, here is the report; http://tarrytown.patch.com/articles/tarrytown-ambulance-corps-holds-special-meeting-tonight-to-address-sexual-harassment-allegations
william hart April 11, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Mark- thanks. I misunderstood. I thought there was some sort of report done by an administrative agency with findings. The link goes to a 'report' here on the Patch. I in no way want to diminish the seriousness of any allegations of misconduct, but unless I am missing something, there has been no independent determination of this yet. Thank you for sending me the link.
Mark April 11, 2012 at 06:40 AM
I see a question, not a "claim". Suzy, correct me if I am wrong. Are you accusing someone or questioning their spending? Please read it carefully. I also would like to know if the funds were spent appropriately.
Truthhurts April 11, 2012 at 01:43 PM
If your so worried about the spending contact the proper persons but this forum is NOT ABOUT THE SPENDING off topic same as Goldstien thing stay on issue or no need to comment anything off topic should be deleted and if same people cant stay on point ban them
Truthhurts April 11, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Not a topic about spending stay on point or keep personal issues to your self
Mark April 11, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Truthhurts, I agree about Goldstein thing being off topic, and glad to see they were deleted... However, I believe it is appropriate to ask TVAC related questions, since the issue here is TVAC and TVAC's cover up. Why does that bother you? Do you know the TVAC's treasurer? If Krista feels they are off topic, I am sure she will delete them.

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