Andover Youth Services director fired

MADELINE HUGHES/Staff photo. Bill Fahey, former director of Andover Youth Services, accompanied by his dog, packs up his office after being fired. 

ANDOVER — A former Andover High School student described an intimate though non-sexual relationship with the town’s former Youth Services director in an interview conducted earlier this year by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.

Bill Fahey faced no criminal charges stemming from the woman’s description of encounters between the two of them over the course of several years. However, the interview was central to a controversial decision last month to fire the 27-year employee, according to attorney Leonard Kesten, who was later hired by the town to defend a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Kesten said the woman also spoke with a private investigator hired by the town to look into her story. Kesten described her as a “vulnerable adolescent” when the relationship started.

Fahey was terminated May 10 for “misconduct,” according to Town Manager Andrew Flanagan, who has not publicly shared details of the nature of that misconduct.

The decision caused outrage among many residents and former participants in the Andover Youth Services program, who consider Fahey to be a skilled mentor who played an important role in the town’s effort to address opioid use among teenagers.

Fahey’s supporters condemned the decision by reaching out to town officials, writing letters to the editor, putting signs in their yards, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with messages of support, and even holding protests downtown. On May 17, more than two-dozen people called into a Select Board meeting to protest his firing.

The investigations into the relationship between Fahey and the woman started in January. The 2013 Andover High School graduate, whom Fahey hired to work at the youth center, first spoke with Community Support Coordinator Sobhan Namvar, the town’s social worker. Subsequently she was referred to Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.

“We conducted an investigation with the Massachusetts State Police and determined that the allegations did not rise to the level of criminal conduct,” Carrie Kimball, a spokesperson for Blodgett’s office, wrote in a statement. “The matter was referred to the town of Andover.”

At the time Fahey was fired, Flanagan called his behavior “highly improper.” Though Fahey acknowledged answering “lots of questions” put to him by the town’s investigator, he said at the time, “I still don’t know why I was fired.”

Fahey has filed a lawsuit against the town and Flanagan for wrongful termination and defamation. Kesten said he expects to offer a response soon.

Close relationship

The Eagle-Tribune reviewed a video of the woman, now 26, being interviewed by Essex County Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall. Victim’s advocate Michelle Defeo and Namvar also attended the videoconference.

As a matter of policy, the newspaper does not identify people who purport to be victims of sexual misconduct.

In the interview, the woman describes how she met Fahey when, at age 15, she was unexpectedly taken out of class to be counseled by him. She had moved in with her grandparents due to difficulties at home. She and Fahey walked around Pomps Pond, she said, and she quickly came to trust him.

Not feeling that she could relate to her grandparents, the woman said she came to feel that Fahey was the only adult she could confide in.

Soon afterward, she said, Fahey hired her to work for Andover Youth Services, where they became close. They would often run errands together and spend hours talking in his office, then on Pearson Street, even during school hours. Sometimes they would go for long drives or he would drive her home from his office late at night, at times after midnight.

When she was 16, the woman said Fahey checked her out of a drug rehabilitation center. They sat in the bed of his truck talking for hours. And, she said, he began discussing his sex life and sexual preferences. Over time it became a primary topic of their conversations, she said.

Their relationship continued after she graduated, and even after she moved out of state.

Once, the woman said she visited with Fahey while she was back home visiting her parents and he kissed her. She was in her 20s at the time.

Otherwise there was no physical contact between them, besides hugs, she said.

The woman also recalled that Fahey at one point discovered explicit materials of her online from her work in the adult entertainment industry. She said he had downloaded a video of her performing a sex act and brought it to her parents’ home to show them.

The woman said Fahey was increasingly jealous and told her not to have sex.

Allegations denied

The woman told interviewers she came forward because she believed Fahey’s actions were wrong and she didn’t want him to continue working with young people.

The town’s investigator, Regina Ryan of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions, looked into allegations about Fahey’s behavior and prepared a 140-page report. Responding to a public records request, the town released the document, but blacked out everything save a 34-page employee handbook and two-page employment contract.

Fahey said in a social media post that he was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement in order to receive a copy of the report.

Fahey’s lawyer, Daniel Murphy, said on Friday that neither of them have seen the woman’s interview.

“We’ve not seen this video, so it is unfair we are asked to comment on a video that we have not seen ourselves,” he said.

Fahey’s lawsuit raises questions about the woman’s credibility. Murphy reiterated those questions in the Friday interview, citing the report from the town’s investigator.

Murphy said the initial meeting between Fahey and the woman happened when the Youth Services director responded to a request for help because two kids, the woman and her sister, were experiencing a family crisis.

“He was involved with assisting the family for some time after,” Murphy said.

Murphy said Fahey denies taking the woman out of rehab. He denies talking with her about his sex life. And he denies showing a video of her engaged in a sex act to her parents, though he did bring the matter to their attention.

“Whatever he did was out of concern for her,” said Murphy, adding that he and Fahey continued to urge the town to “provide full disclosure.”

This isn’t the first time Fahey has been in trouble with the town.

In 2017, Fahey was suspended for about two months after town officials said he failed to adequately supervise an employee.

Flanagan said at the time that an administrative investigation discovered a former Andover Youth Services employee was engaged in inappropriate conduct toward two program participants. Though it did not violate criminal law, Flanagan called the behavior “highly improper.”

Flanagan said despite “AYS management’s awareness that the conduct had occurred, inadequate steps were taken to address it or to prevent it in the future.”

Fahey contends in his lawsuit that the previous suspension — along with his recent firing — were all part of Flanagan’s vendetta against him.

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