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Tucson transportation director resigns amid sexual-harassment allegations
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Tucson transportation director resigns amid sexual-harassment allegations

The city’s transportation director resigned last week shortly after an internal investigation found evidence he sexually harassed one of his employees.

A 13-page report dated Jan. 17, detailing an investigation made at the request of City Manager Mike Ortega, found evidence of unwanted sexual advances by Daryl Cole, including allegations that he attempted to kiss the employee after a happy-hour event, hugged her against her will and made comments about the woman’s appearance.

“Witness testimony supports the allegations the respondent frequently engages in comments based on women’s attire, appearance, and behaviors, (hugging), that may be unwelcomed by women employed by the Department of Transportation,” concluded the city report, which was prepared by Liana Perez of the City Manager’s Office.

Reached for comment Friday night, Cole denied the allegations in the report.

He retired, he said, because he no longer felt he could do his job effectively after the allegations were brought forward.

“I retired because I felt I could no longer be productive in this type of environment,” he said.

Cole submitted his letter of resignation Jan. 30, and his last day in the office was Feb. 2, according to a memo by Ortega. The female employee was first interviewed about her complaint Jan. 10.

The report details a complaint made by the city employee who said Cole made a number of unwanted advances, including inviting himself to a happy hour after work with the employee and several of her friends.

When alone with her in her truck after asking for a ride back to his car from the establishment, she alleges that Cole “grabbed the back of her head and pulled her in towards him and forced a kiss on her,” the report said.

She told investigators she told Cole to stop and to get out of her truck. She also said she didn’t report it to her supervisors because she didn’t know she could report incidents that occurred away from work, the report said.

Cole, when he was interviewed as part of the investigation, denied he tried to kiss the employee, the report states.

The employee also said she repeatedly heard Cole say “Mmmm, that’s what I like, I want some of that,” when she walked down the hall at work.

A number of her allegations could not be independently confirmed as there were no witnesses. The report said while there were no witnesses to the alleged behavior, several other employees interviewed during the investigation said the employee had previously confided in them about Cole’s behavior and how it made her feel uncomfortable.

Several employees told investigators that Cole liked to hug female co-workers and make comments about their appearance. The report said Cole told investigators he hugged the woman to wish her a “happy new year,” but that it was a “side-to-side” not “face-to-face” embrace.

“Mr. Cole went on to say he hugs a lot of people at the office. If someone doesn’t like it and says something, such as they don’t like it, ‘he doesn’t think twice about it,’” the report said.

The heavily redacted document obtained through a public-records request by the Star makes it difficult to know exactly when the alleged harassment may have started, but lists that prior to Jan. 9, the city “was not made aware of any inappropriate behaviors by Mr. Cole toward the unnamed employee.”

The names of all the employees interviewed were redacted in the released report.

Cole had been the city’s director of transportation since August 2012 and made $140,000 a year. He oversaw a staff of about 260 full-time employees.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

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Reporter

Joe has been with the Star for six years. He covers politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona. He graduated from the UA and previously worked for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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