Pharr officials have long known about sexual harassment claims against top admin

Graphic: The Monitor; Pharr City Hall: Pharr EDC; Edward Wylie: City of Pharr

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez and the city commission were notified more than a year ago about sexual harassment allegations made against the city’s then-top administrative official.

The complaint obtained by The Monitor shows that Hernandez and the city commission were sent a letter on Sep. 28, 2021, by a city employee who accused Ed Wylie of workplace sexual harassment, hostile environment, bullying and retaliation.

“I find myself in a situation where I have had to make the difficult decision to formally bring to your attention a situation that has been ongoing for the past six (6) years of my employment with the City,” the letter read. “Deputy City Manager Edward Wylie has, over the course of my employment with the City, committed several violations of City Personnel Policy and of the law.”

At the time, Wylie was interim city manager, a position he held since 2019. He is currently employed as a deputy city manager after stepping down in April 2022.

The city employee alleges that she was sexually harassed by Wylie both verbally and in writing through the sending of “inappropriate comments and innuendos.”

“He has asked me to hug and kiss him (because I have greeted a commissioner that I have known for many years in that manner), he has asked me to send him bikini photos,” the letter read. “He has asked me if my legs are ‘soft or hard’. He has also made comments about the way my clothing fits, such as ‘who painted those pants on you?’

“He has also sent messages telling me I have a nice body. He has admitted he is attracted to me, but claimed he would not act on it.”

She goes on to reference other instances in which Wylie allegedly “found opportunities” to touch her inappropriately, including on her shoulder, back and elbow.

“These comments and touching have all been unwelcomed,” she said in the letter. “I also learned that during interviews for his own Executive Administrative Assistant, one of the applicants indicated she was leaving her employment due to sexual harassment, he made the comment ‘I guess we can’t hire her.’ I know I am not the only one who has been sexually harassed by Edward Wylie.”

The city employee also detailed instances in which she was allegedly subjected to verbal chastisement from the then-interim city manager, as well as retaliation after at least four attempts to address his “inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.”

“I am hereby requesting that an investigation be conducted into Edward Wylie’s unprofessional, illegal, and hostile behavior, and that something be done,” she wrote at the conclusion of the letter.

The complaint shows that the following day she also sent an email to the mayor with the letter and screenshots of text messages allegedly sent from Wylie. The email was also shared with Human Resources Director Veronica Ramirez on Oct. 4, 2021.

“Mayor, please see attached,” the email read. “I am sorry for having to formalize this. I will be sending to the rest of the commission later but wanted to give you the courtesy of receiving and reading it first.”

The attached screenshots show text messages sent from a contact named “Ed Wylie.” Some of the messages sent from the individual include lewd memes and messages shared with the city employee.

One message reads, “Well at least Peggy Bundy had a nice body. So we call you … Bundy,” with a photo of actress Katey Sagal portraying Peggy Bundy from the television sitcom Married… With Children in a leotard.

Later in the conversation, a picture of an unidentified woman was shared. The woman in the picture appears to be stimulated by a fan blowing air under her skirt.

Another conversation shows the city employee texting “It’s 200 degrees,” to which the other person responds, “Put your bikini on and tan then.”

The complaint shows that Wylie called a meeting on Sep. 2, 2021 with the city employee, then Assistant City Manager Anali Alanis and Ramirez, the city’s human resources director, after the mayor informed him about “concerns he needed to address.”

Notes from the meeting show that the city employee shared her grievances with Wylie in the presence of Alanis and Ramirez. Wylie ended the meeting that was called to discuss his alleged behavior by saying that he had to attend another meeting.

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez declined to comment, telling The Monitor that he is unable to comment on personnel issues.

The city of Pharr, on Jan. 18, filed a lawsuit in Travis County against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The city filed the lawsuit in response to two rulings from the attorney general regarding Texas Public Information Act requests seeking complaints about a specific employee. According to the city, those requests were similar in nature.

The requests were filed by Dave Hendricks, a local freelance journalist, and Lorena Singh, a Pharr resident who has previously run for city commission.

According to the city, the attorney general provided the city “two different results from the attorney general in terms of what specific information the city could withhold in the same responsive documents.”

The city believes the attorney general’s alleged two applications demonstrate the arbitrary application of a portion of Texas government code.

The city had argued that the requested information should be withheld because it includes the identity “of a sexual harassment victim.” The lawsuit said the attorney general’s application of the Texas public Information Act does “little, if anything, to protect the victim’s identity.”

“The Attorney General’s application also requires disclosure of embarrassing information, the nature of which renders it not public information,” the lawsuit read. “As such, the Attorney General’s decisions are inconsistent with caselaw that dictates the right to privacy is invaded with the identity of a sexual harassment victim is revealed and that certain information of an embarrassing nature has no public value and is not, therefore, public information.”

Court records indicate that Paxton has not yet been served the lawsuit, and the date for the initial conference has not been scheduled.