By Julie Montanaro
February 19, 2013
The Shelter’s executive board met tonight to discuss sexual harassment allegations leveled by a pastor who spent one night undercover there.
On Friday, Tallahassee’s city manager asked Tallahassee Police to investigate further. TPD spokesman David Northway says that investigation is still under way and he did not have a target date for its completion.
By Julie Montanaro
February 15, 2013
Claims of sexual harassment at the Shelter in Tallahassee have prompted two new investigations.
As we first reported last night, a pastor who works with the homeless went undercover there for a night and claims she was propositioned by a staff member.
He’s been placed on leave and there’s a meeting at 5 o’clock today to determine what happens next.
A missionary who works with the homeless says she spent just a few hours in disguise at The Shelter and was propositioned by a staff member before she even signed in.
“He says you don’t want to stay in there, you wanna come with me at my house. I will take you to McDonalds,” Miller said.
“We are taking the allegations very seriously,” board member David Maloney said.
Renee Miller’s blog about it all stunned the Shelter Board. The board’s vice chair says the employee in question was placed on unpaid leave immediately. He was told not to report to work Thursday night.
The board scheduled three emergency meetings today including one at 5 o’clock with the staff member who’s accused of propositioning Miller.
“If the employee admits the allegation, I think he’ll be fired on the spot, if the employee denies the allegation, there’s going to have to be an investigation,” Maloney said.
Tallahassee Police say they were called to the Shelter that night, but did not write a report and based on Miller’s comments did not find a crime was committed.
The city manager has asked the police chief to circle back to be sure.
“The city manager has asked the police chief to talk to the woman who wrote the blog post, talk to shelter clients, talk to shelter staff … and the real purpose is to determine is there any additional law enforcement issues that need to be looked into,” said city spokeswoman Michelle Bono.
According to Bono, The Shelter receives $402,000 in United Way funding as part of the city and county’s Community Human Services Partnership. She says the city has no oversight of the Shelter’s operations.
Leon County Administrator Vince Long said the same thing, but he said the missionary’s allegations of sexual harassment – and everything from bed bugs to missing backpacks – “”has our attention.”
The Shelter’s board members are just asking the community to consider its decades long track record of free services and not to rush to judgment on these allegations.
“We hope to have the opportunity to give us a chance to find out what is going on and know that as a board we will follow up and any wrongdoing will be righted,” said board vice-chair Prsicilla Tharpe.
A 5 o’clock meeting among the shelter’s executive board, attorneys and the employee accused of harassment has just wrapped up.
A board spokesman says the employee will remain on leave without pay until they can investigate further. They will hire an independent employment lawyer to conduct the investigation.
WCTV will bring you more on this story tonight on Eyewitness News.
By: Gina Pitisci
February 14, 2013
Tallahassee, FL – A local woman who works with the homeless everyday heard complaints about the Shelter before, but after several weeks of hearing the same complaints, decided to do something about it.
Renee Miller, Director, City Walk Urban Missions: “He says you don’t want to stay in there… You want to come stay with me, I’ll take you to McDonalds.”
According to Renee Miller, that was what she was told upon checking in at the Shelter when she went undercover as a homeless woman for the night.
Renee Miller, Director, City Walk Urban Missions: “I asked for a drink of water when I got there, and the guy who had asked me for sex handed me a half drank bottle of his own water– I couldn’t even get clean water from a spigot, or something in a cup.”
The Executive Director of the Shelter says that although events like this are uncommon they plan to look into the issue further.
Mel Eby, Executive Director, the Shelter: “it’s possible, it’s possible any place and we’ll investigate and of course we wouldn’t tolerate anything like that. We’re going to investigate to look more into it and if there is any truth to it, we’ll take action.”
While undercover, Renee also met a woman who was bit multiple times by bed bugs at the shelter.
Mel Eby, Executive Director, the Shelter: “The bed bugs have been a problem all over town, including in the FSU dorms, and we keep working on it, it’s not like we ignore it, but the problem is there are so many transients coming in with new luggage and new belongings and they could be bringing them in.”
Two local homeless men also gave their opinion of the Shelter and their experience while staying there.
Joshua Horne, one homeless man, stated, “It’s alright, Mel’s a good guy, he really is, he’s trying to help people.”
H.B., one homeless man, adds, “At the Shelter, to me, the people ain’t right. See they’ll keep you there, they’ll feed you, but when someone else thought that you are trouble, they’ll put you out and let them stay in there. It ain’t right.”
If you would like to help the homeless in our area, City Walk Urban Missions accepts clothes, household items and monetary donations at their thrift store. They are located at 1351 Thomasville Road in Tallahassee and the proceeds go back to helping the homeless or ex-offenders.
To read Renee Miller’s full blog post, “Undercover at the Shelter”, go to http://www.tallahasseegrapevine.com/blog/view/id_4230/title_undercover-at-the-shelter-in-tallahassee/.