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City worker withdraws sexual harassment complaint against Felix G. Arroyo

Felix G. Arroyo was fired from his job after an internal investigation.John Blanding/Globe Staff/File 2017

A woman who accused Felix G. Arroyo of repeated sexual harassment while he headed the city’s health and human services department has withdrawn her complaint with the state.

In pulling her complaint, the woman indicated she would pursue civil action against Arroyo, according to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

“The commission has received notice that the complainant intends to file a civil action,’’ wrote MCAD investigating commissioner Sunila Thomas-George in a Nov. 28 letter on the case. “The complaint before the commission is hereby dismissed without prejudice as to the merits.”

Arroyo, who had supervised the department where the woman formerly worked, has denied any wrongdoing.


As of Wednesday, no lawsuits has been filed against Arroyo in Suffolk Superior Court, the clerk’s office said.

The Globe does not name victims or alleged victims in certain types of cases. The woman did not respond to a call for comment.

MCAD said that after 90 days a person can withdraw his or her complaint from MCAD to file a private right of action in trial court. The woman, who had filed the complaint in August, withdrew the case Nov. 21, and MCAD closed it Nov. 28, according to H Harrison, MCAD’s spokesman.

The woman’s allegations put a spotlight on Arroyo, a promising politician who served on the City Council, was a candidate in the 2013 contest for mayor, and is a member of a prominent Puerto Rican family in the city.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration quickly fired Arroyo, one of the city’s few top Latino officials at City Hall. Arroyo’s dismissal last summer rankled his backers and some political observers who noted that two top city officials indicted in a federal corruption probe have been suspended with pay since 2016 and allowed to keep their jobs while those cases continued. Their trial is scheduled for late March.


Arroyo’s supporters said that the fact that the MCAD case had been withdrawn is vindication for the former health services chief.

“It’s very interesting,’’ said Tony Molino, a close friend of the Arroyo family and an activist in the Puerto Rican community. “Why, then, was he relieved of his job? And why is she dropping the case? I just hope that Felix is vindicated.”

The city declined Thursday to comment on the case.

Arroyo’s attorney, Isaac H. Peres, said in an e-mail that his client has been steadfast that the accusations made with MCAD and in the news media were “uncorroborated, and lacking any credible basis.” He said the allegations were made solely to harm Arroyo’s reputation.

“We are not in the least bit surprised that the MCAD complaint was withdrawn after the truth was exposed during the initial phase of the commission’s investigation,’’ said Peres. “We believe that Mr. Arroyo has been vindicated, and we stand ready to defend his reputation in any way necessary and against any person or organization that attempts to damage his reputation again with these false allegations.”

In her complaint, the woman said that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by Arroyo since the fall of 2015, that he and his chief of staff created a hostile work environment, and that at one point he grabbed her by the back of the neck and squeezed it very hard.

She said when she complained to city officials, she was moved to a different department, which she considered a demotion. City officials previously said the woman requested to be moved to a different department.​


In the complaint, she named the mayor, the City of Boston, Arroyo, and his chief of staff. It alleged sexual harassment, retaliation on the basis of her sex and gender, and a hostile workplace.

The city said it terminated Arroyo after it completed its own “comprehensive internal investigation” that started July 27 and concluded Aug. 23.

In his written response to the MCAD allegations, Arroyo denied that he created a hostile work environment and that he ever discriminated against the woman.

He noted his career as a social justice advocate and said he “consciously hired and supported people of color’’ in the health services department.

The Arroyo complaint said he never denied the woman “a raise, promotion, or a position for which she applied, nor did he ever demote her, dock her pay, or write her up.”

The Arroyo document also noted text messages between himself and the woman, adding that the messages “further corroborate the ease that [the woman] felt in approaching Arroyo with personal problems or the absence of any hostility of discrimination in the workplace.”

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.