Parks and Rec. Dept. discrimination, harassment claims

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In a story you'll only see on 12, Augusta commissioners are looking into claims of discrimination and harassment in one of the city's largest departments.

Augusta's Parks and Recreation Department has some 130 employees. After complaints from some of them, city leaders are now involved. One name has been brought up in nearly all of the complaints: department head Tom Beck.

Beck knows city leaders have a close eye on him and his staff.

"We're an open book," he says. "Anything that wants to be looked into, I'm all for it."

News 12 has learned the Augusta Commission is investigating personnel and operation policies within the department.

Commissioner Marion Williams says complaints include alleged racial and gender discrimination, employees drinking beer while working at the city's golf course, and missing money.

"Those allegations, as far as I'm concerned, are completely unfounded," Beck says.

Beck says he believes the claims are personal attacks from a few commissioners and a small group of employees.

We asked Beck if he thought he'd been fair.

"Absolutely I do," he said.

According to grievances filed in Augusta's HR department, some current and former employees say Beck has created a hostile work environment...and there are claims of harassment, discrimination, and employees being passed over for promotion.

One employee writes that Tom Beck knows that no one will discipline him because of his friendship with white males in management.

"Have those issues been brought to my attention by some employees? Yes, they have," Beck says. "I feel I've addressed those issues. I do not feel like they're warranted."

Some commissioners say they have'nt been addressed, and that's why the investigation is necessary. Commissioner Calvin Holland says he knows of issues at the golf course first hand.

"Commissioner Williams and myself went up there," Holland says. "We got in the golf cart, we drove around the golf course, we observed some things that were neglected."

Some officials say they want to know why course play has decreased by thirty percent over the years, and why the department is in the hole.

Beck says he has answers, but when he showed up to a recent public meeting where the department was being discussed, he was told to leave.

"The only way you can get answers is to ask the person responsible," he says. "And I am responsible."

We did learn one of the department's former employees has filed a lawsuit against the city.

Also, commissioners wouldn't say much about what, if anything, has been revealed so far through this investigation. The committee will meet on Monday.

News 12 asked Tom Beck if he feared losing his job after the investigation is complete. He says he has been fair, but "Let the chips fall where they may".