Reasons for Felix G. Arroyo’s suspension still unclear

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The city has not said why Felix G. Arroyo (above) is suspended.
The city has not said why Felix G. Arroyo (above) is suspended.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Felix G. Arroyo always held his head tall around City Hall. The son of the first Latino city councilor and a former mayoral candidate, he had landed a coveted top-level job in Mayor Martin J. Walsh's administration.

But on July 28, Arroyo was put on paid leave from his $130,000-a-year job as the head of health and human services, leaving many to speculate about possible wrongdoing or whether he was being forced out. Some in City Hall have been eager to defend him.

City officials have been hushed about the suspension. Walsh has said only that there is an internal inquiry into Arroyo, but has declined to elaborate. Boston police say they are not involved in an investigation of Arroyo, but the city's law department is looking into the matter, officials confirmed.


"If we have information we'll get it out,'' Walsh promised.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination said earlier this week that it has received no formal complaints, a spokesman said.

Arroyo, in a statement last week, said he had not been told about the nature of the investigation. He said he was eager to learn about the specifics of any allegations and promised to cooperate fully, noting that he wants to return to his job.

Beyond the statement, Arroyo has not responded to the suspension publicly or to multiple requests for comment from the Globe.

Several City Hall staffers say he is a consummate professional who respects his staff and cares deeply about the city's most vulnerable residents and the city workers who serve them. They decided to speak to the Globe in support of Arroyo but asked that their names be withheld; some said they fear retribution.

"It will create a little wave with the mayor if Felix is terminated,'' particularly because there are so few elected Latino officials in the city, said an employee who asked not to be named because the employee, like everyone interviewed, was not authorized to speak to the news media.


City Hall insiders who asked not to be named described Arroyo as being beloved by some, but others said he is a divisive figure. Some City Hall employees said he often does his own thing and is not a team player.

But some of the people who worked with Arroyo dismissed such criticism as unfair and noted Arroyo's work expanding trauma teams, engaging residents, and opening City Hall to people who feel shut out.

"It's . . . ridiculous,'' said one employee. "All you have to do is look at his professional record, his experience.

One of the city workers who spoke to the Globe said that until the day of his suspension Arroyo was a well-respected member of the administration. Walsh called on Arroyo repeatedly for his expertise during a mayoral forum July 20 sponsored by the Jamaica Plain Progressives, according to a video of the event.

"It's kind of shocking to learn the news of the internal inquiry,'' said the official.

The workers said they were told in a meeting July 28 of the inquiry and that Arroyo would not be returning to his post for "a significant amount of time,'' one person told the Globe.

Two of the workers said the officials did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation or say whether Arroyo would return to his duties.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@meghanirons.