McClure gets time to appeal his firing

Former Augusta Animal Services Field Supervisor Bruce McClure, appealing to the Personnel Board after being fired over allegations that he sexually harassed three animal control officers, has been given an extra month to prepare his case.

He told the board Wednesday that he had just been handed a thick envelope containing investigative documents, and he needed time to read them. Hearing no objections from the other board members, Chairman Harold Simon granted a continuance until Feb. 17.

Mr. Simon didn't ask for a rebuttal from General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie before making the decision. Afterward, Mr. MacKenzie said Mr. McClure only requested the documents Sunday, and that when he tried to call, Mr. McClure's voice mailbox was full.

City Administrator Fred Russell fired Mr. McClure on Nov. 30 following an in-depth investigation that found many complaints of inappropriate behavior toward women back to 2004.

A case finding by the Augusta Equal Employment Opportunity Office also said Animal Services Director Diane Downs was aware of Mr. McClure's behavior, but did nothing, something Ms. Downs has denied.

"It is recommended that a severe discipline is issued to the Animal Services Director," the report by EEO Coordinator Jacqueline Humphrey said, "such that she is not in a position to supervise others."

Because she's a department head, taking disciplinary action against Ms. Downs will be up to the Augusta Commission. Mr. Russell said he will decide what to recommend later in the week.

The city's investigation began when three women complained to EEO that Mr. McClure, an animal cruelty investigator, was sexually harassing them. One woman said he groped her during an "inappropriate conversation," according to the EEO case finding.

The accompanying investigative report, reviewed by The Chronicle under an open records request, said the harassment started before the women had been hired, with Mr. McClure getting their phone numbers off their applications.

The investigation found a pattern of similar behavior. In 2004, a co-worker alleged that Mr. McClure twice exposed himself to her, the EEO report says. In 2005, a state Department of Agriculture investigator complained that he made a crude pass at her.

Also in 2005, Mr. McClure was charged with simple battery after a co-worker on an outside security job accused him of holding her against her will and forcing his tongue in her mouth. The case wasn't prosecuted because she didn't show up for court.

The investigative file also includes affidavits from two women involved in the ongoing animal cruelty case against Loo's Cuddly Critters on Walton Way. Proprietor Rebecca Loo said that, before citing her, Mr. McClure asked her to sit in his vehicle with him, where he asked if she lived alone, asked if she had a boyfriend and said he would come by her house some time to see for himself.

A store worker said Mr. McClure came to her home, threatened to write her a citation, said his badge gave him power to "do anything," asked her astrological sign, asked if she had a boyfriend or husband and asked if she lived alone.

The report, written by private investigator J. Alexander Chilton, who was retained by the Law Department, said there was a "common denominator" among all the complainants.

"Bruce McClure approached them all when they were alone and/or in an induced isolated situation with him," Mr. Chilton wrote, adding later, "When Bruce McClure is accused of and/or confronted with any wrong doing (sic) or inappropriate behavior, he immediately goes on the attack. Bruce disparages, impugns, insults and denigrates the character of his accuser. In some instances he has actually accused his accuser of the same accusation levied at him."

This was the second time Mr. Russell had fired him. He did it in 2004, when Mr. McClure was accused of falsifying records so he could take a female boxer out of the pound, then breeding the dog for profit while letting her heartworms go untreated.

Mr. Russell's decision was later reversed by the Personnel Board.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.