Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Park Employee Convicted Of Sexual Assault Of Co-Worker In Central Park

"Since that day I've had to go to counseling and sit with hurt inside pouring all my tears out about how you affected my personal life with my family and people around me. My kids wonder why mommy is always mad and why is mommy always crying. They ask me what is wrong and I cant say a thing." - Victim.

The Parks Department's 86th St. shop - located along the transverse road adjacent to the Central Park Police Pct. in the middle of the park - was the location where a parks worker was sexually assulted on June 27th, 2011. A co-worker was found guilty today and recieved a four month and fifteen day sentence. The judge also ordered an order of protection for the victim and ordered the defendant Vernon Gowdy to pay a $ 250 fine.

(Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.

Parks Department worker Vernon Gowdy. (Photo: Sam Griffin, The Pool)


By Geoffrey Croft

A Parks Department employee with a lengthy criminal record was sentenced today in the sexual abuse a fellow park worker.

Vernon Gowdy - 43, was convicted of Forcible Touching and Exposure of a Person of a co-worker inside Central Park in June 2011. Despite being convicted last month he is still working for the Parks Department.

Judge Anthony J. Ferrara sentenced Mr. Gowdy to four months for Forcible Touching and 15 days for exposing himself. He faced up to a year in behind bars. The judge also ordered an order of protection for the victim and ordered Gowdy to pay a $ 250 fine.

"They reviewed all the evidence and they found you were guilty of a very serious crime," said the judge in rendering his sentence.

At one point the judge asked why the defendant still had his job.

"What are they waiting for. He was convicted of sexual assault in the workplace. What are they waiting for," the judge asked defense lawyer Stuart Lichten in disbelief.

"I don't know," the lawyer responded. "Maybe it's just bureaucracy."

"I have had a long and stressful journey dealing with what you have done to me," the 33 year-old mother of three told Judge Ferarra, in part reading from a victim impact statement.

"Since that day I've had to go to counseling and sit with hurt inside pouring all my tears out about how you affected my personal life with my family and people around me. My kids wonder why mommy is always mad and why is mommy always crying. They ask me what is wrong and I cant say a thing."

She joined the prosecutors in asking that he get the maximum sentence allowed by law, one year in jail.

"You are a disgusting low down individual that does not have any respect or decency towards women. It sickens my stomach to even be in the same room with you, but I will stand here to let you know you will never do this to me or someone else within the workplace again," she said as tears rolled down her face.

The abuse took place on the second floor of the Parks Department's 86th shop located along the transverse road adjacent to the Central Park Police Pct. in the middle of the park.

On June 27th, 2011, at approximately 8:00am, Gowdy approached the victim, rubbed her back, slid a hand into her shorts and rubbed his hand between the woman's buttocks, according to the criminal court complaint. He then exposed his erect penis and displayed it to the woman, and stated in substance, "It's all right. You could touch it."

The woman informed Gowdy that he did not have her consent to touch informant's buttock or informant's back or to expose his penis, according according to the complaint.

"I felt disgusted. I was in total shock," she said today.

According to the victim, Gowdy reeked of marijuana when he approached her desk that morning. Gowdy left her work area only when a supervisor approached and asked "what's going on here," she told A Walk In the Park.

"Mama, keep it between a & b," (between you and me) he reportedly said to her after the incident.

Six days later he was arrested and brought to the Central Park Pct. a few yards away.

He was originally charged with Forcible Touching- (1 count ) and Sexual Abuse in the 3rd Degree (1 count)

He faced up to two years in behind bars - a year on each count.

The victim was on the stand for two hours during the May trial.

"It was tough but I hung in there," she said.

Gowdy was suspended for 30 days from his $44,051-a-year job a few weeks after the incident.

Before his arrest the victim had to endure seeing her abuser in the office twice a day for week when he clocked in and out of work. After his arrest he was suspended. After the suspension the agency moved him to Ft. Tyron in upper Manhattan and then as part of Borough Crew working out of 125th Street where he works today according to DPR sources.

Instead of relocating her from the scene of the crime as she has repeatedly requested, the Parks Department installed multiple cameras around the entrance of the building.

Compounding the issue since the incident has been the Parks Department's refusal to transfer the victim from the location where the abuse took place she says. She reports being teased numerous times in the office since.

Instead of moving her as she has repeatedly requested, Parks' Manhattan Chief of Operations - Nam Yoon - had multiple cameras installed around the entrance of the building.

"I asked to be moved from the 86th Street shops and I've been denied ever since. I've requested two or three times to be moved. What I got was, "it couldn't happen right now, They would need a body for a body." The chief (Nam Yoon) didn't think there was a need for the move because the person who committed the crime was removed. It's just been a mess.

I've had to remind him I have re-live being there all the time. Just being in the office is uncomfortable for me. And I'm still there. He told me I'm in the safest place in the borough, the police are right across the street and all this garbage. I'm looking a him - this isn't affecting me safe wise it's affecting me mentally. My well being. I don't like being there. I have to work I have to make a living but it affects me everyday."

"I'm in counseling for it now, I've been in counseling since it happened," she continued.

A park employee since 2002 she has worked her way up: First as a JTP where she worked in Jackie Robinson Park, then as a seasonal worker to now a well respected CPW, a position she has held since 2006.

She said she is continuing to receive counseling made available through the DA's office.

"He doesn't know the affect this has had on me. He has no idea," she said of Gowdy.

Gowdy read from a prepared statement and protested his innocence.
As proof he claimed that a Parks Department Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) report "found no probable cause" to support the victim's claims.

When contacted for comment after the preceding, both the victim and her union representative, DC 37 Local 1505 president Dilcy Benn said they were unaware of the existence of such a report and say in fact they have never heard a single word from the agency's EEO office since first contacting them. They also asked whether Gowdy had disclosed in his statement that he and Richard Granderson, then head of the EEO office were friends. He did not. (see below).

Gowdy vowed to appeal the sentence.

He was lead away in handcuffs after the preceding.

When asked afterwards how he was convicted, his attorney Mr. Lichtenr said, "I guess the jury believed her testimony."


Vernon Gowdy, (above) is an Associate Park Service Worker (ASPW) has a long history with the law dating back to 1983 according to law enforcement sources.
(Photo: Sam Griffin, The Pool)

He has been locked-up more than 15 times. In 2001, Detectives arrested Vernon Gowdy for the July 11, 1991, strangulation of Anna McCoy, 25, whose partially nude body was found on a stairwell landing in a building on Valentine Avenue in University Heights but wasn't prosecuted because Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said there wasn't enough evidence.

Detectives at the time said evidence against Gowdy included a DNA match of semen found on the victim and unspecified statements he made to investigators about the case, according to a report.

"I can't understand why he's not still behind bars," an officer was quoted as saying. "We had the DNA, we had the statements. That should have been enough."

He did an almost five year stint in Sing Sing for attempted robbery in the 80's and additional time for robbery at Queensborough Correctional Facility in the 1990's.

His arrest history also includes:

Multiple arrests for criminal possession of stolen property, multiple arrests for petty larceny, DWI (2004), criminal possession of a controlled substance, jostling, and possession of marijuana. He also has five arrests which have been sealed by the courts.

According to the DPR he has worked in Parks since June 15, 1998. Gowdy said in statement read today he has been an employee of the year and employee of the month during that time.

"What type of background checks are being done on workers," asked a long-time Parks employee who requested anonymity. "It's not just the public that needs to be worried its us as well."

At the time of Gowdy's arrest last year Parks Department press officials rigorously defended his hiring.

Despite repeated requests the Parks Department's press office and Mayor's office and have refused to respond including whether he is still employed by the Parks Department. (Update)

"This matter was taken very seriously by the agency," a Parks Department spokesperson said in a statement.

"The agency has cooperated fully in both the criminal investigation and the prosecution of Mr. Gowdy. We are moving to terminate him. He has certain due process rights which allow him to appeal before he is terminated (as well as after termination)."

"He's still working. This is why I have no trust in the agency."

The vicim said she is appalled at how she has been treated by the agency since the ordeal.

"This is a male dominated agency, we are so far down. I don't feel they stand up for woman."

The vicim said she went to the police after it was not being addressed internally by the agency. She and Local 1505 president Dilcy Been first contacted the park advocates office. They met the office and were told there was "nothing they can do." They told them to contact the agency's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office then run by Richard "Ricardo" Granderson which they did.

Granderson finally got back to her after leaving a few messages. The victim said Granderson took the "allegation" and said they would do what he discribed as "an investigation."

She never heard back.

"To this day I never heard back from him," she said today.

According to multiple park sources Gowdy and Granderson were friends.

"You had to go through him. It's obvious he had some kind of relationship with him. Everybody knew they were friends. You could see it, " the victim said.

According to several park sources Mr. Granderson was fond saying how he reported directly to Parks Commissioner Benepe.

"He used to threaten you with that," a source said.

Granderson quietly left the agency in November. His employment with the Parks Department is excluded from his company bio. He founded the Granderson Group while simultaneously working at the agency.
(Granderson worked for Parks from 11/16/04 to 11/11/11) We are waiting to hear back if he recieved a waiver from the City's Conflict of Interest board.

"Where are we supposed to go to with these issues," she asked. "Who will represent the victim. They act like they don't care. There needs to be an independent body who aren't connected to these people. We don't have that.

The Parks Department hates when these things get outside the agency, but they bring it upon themselves.
This is the Parks Department, there is no accountability."

For the victim it's been a long, arduous journey.

"I'm strong, I will beat this."

Read More:

AM New York - June 26, 2012 - By Ivan Pereira

A Walk In The Park - July 11, 2011

New York Post - July 4, 2001 - By Philip Messing

New York Post - July 5, 2001 - By John Lehmann

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