The Boston Police Department is investigating allegations that health services chief Felix G. Arroyo grabbed the neck of a female subordinate who had accused him of repeated sexual harassment, Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy said Wednesday.
The woman, in a discrimination complaint shared with the Globe, said Arroyo grabbed her by the back of the neck after learning that she was going to report him to city authorities.
McCarthy said the department is aware of the female employee’s allegations and “is attempting to contact the victim to see if she wants to file a criminal complaint.”
The newest development in the case comes as Mayor Martin J. Walsh indicated Wednesday that the city was close to taking more concrete actions concerning Arroyo, who was placed on paid administrative leave from his $130,000-a-year job last month.
“We’re doing our internal investigation, and we’ve been working on it for a couple weeks here,” Walsh said. “And once it’s complete, we’ll see what the next step is.”
He added: “I don’t know when it will be done, but hopefully shortly.”
Arroyo, through a spokeswoman, has denied the allegations. So far, there have been no public findings in the city’s inquiry.
The police’s involvement in what had been a city inquiry comes one day after the Globe reported the woman, whom Arroyo supervised, filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging sexual harassment by Arroyo that began in 2015. She said in the complaint that Arroyo “spanked” her buttocks, made inappropriate sexual comments, and created a hostile work environment.
She said that after she complained to city authorities, she was moved to a different department, which she considered a demotion. The complaint names Arroyo, Walsh, the City of Boston, and Arroyo’s chief of staff, Ilyitch Nahiely Tabora.
City officials said that they received a copy of the complaint Tuesday.
Colette Phillips, a public relations executive serving as Arroyo’s spokeswoman, did not respond to a question about whether Arroyo had been served the MCAD complaint.
“Chief Arroyo contends that these are baseless allegations and he continues to cooperate with the process,” Phillips said. “Again, we ask not to rush to judgement.”
Arroyo was put on paid leave July 28 and the city launched an internal investigation. Four days passed between the time the woman said she contacted human resources to address the matter and when Arroyo was suspended.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Walsh called the allegations “concerning,’’ saying the city immediately turned over the matter to counsel for review and put Arroyo on leave.
He also said the woman’s transfer to a different department was not retaliation by the city, saying officials wanted to ensure she was in a safer work environment.
“Nobody should have that feeling, [coming into] a hostile work environment. No one should ever have that,” said Walsh, when asked generally about sexual harassment. “That’s something that bothers me, particularly a woman, and I don’t want that happening in my administration.”
A former city councilor from Jamaica Plain, Arroyo, 38, is the scion of one of Boston’s most prominent political families. As health and human services chief, his portfolio includes Veterans Affairs and the Public Health Commission.
Under the late mayor Thomas M. Menino, the post was frequently a powerhouse in city government. But Arroyo has never been fully enveloped in Walsh’s inner circle, according to City Hall insiders.
After his own 2013 mayoral bid ended in the preliminary election, Arroyo became a pivotal supporter of Walsh’s campaign over then-city-councilor John Connolly, helping Walsh rack up votes in communities of color.
As the inquiries continue, Councilor Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor, questioned how the allegations were handled, calling it “mismanagement and a lack of leadership in the Walsh administration in failing to protect the well-being of a city employee.”
“I, for one, want to apologize for any pain that has been caused,’’ Jackson added.