October 24, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain looks into alleged harassment

Adam Wright and Brad Dicken
The Chronicle-Telegram
LORAIN — The city is investigating allegations that Deputy Safety Service Director Joe Arendt sexually harassed a fellow city worker.
The investigation began this week after an attorney for Nadine Pena, a temporary employee working in the Community Development Department, made a public records request for both of their personnel files as well as for any complaints of sexual harassment made against Arendt.
Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka, who is in charge of personnel for the city, was informed about the situation while on vacation last week, and he began the investigation when he returned Tuesday. He said there have been no formal complaints made to the city about Arendt’s behavior by Pena or anyone else.
But Kobylka isn’t taking any chances while he investigates.
“I’ve instructed Joe to keep a distance from Nadine Pena, while (I’m) talking with individuals who have knowledge of the situation,” he said, refusing to elaborate on Pena’s accusations.
Arendt has continued to work for the city and likely will until the investigation is complete, Kobylka said. Pena also remains on the job.
“I have to make sure that charges are substantiated before I discipline anyone,” he said. “I’m investigating it and, if discipline is warranted, he will be disciplined.”
Arendt, who was hired by the city Dec. 1 as part of a staff shakeup when former Safety Service Director Craig Miller resigned after being convicted of lying to police, said Pena’s allegations against him are false.
“It’s not true,” Arendt said. “I really can’t say anything more than that.”
Pena was hired in March to assist Construction Administrator Rey Carrion in community development and with clerical duties, Community Development Director Sandy Prudoff said.
“She’s been a very attentive employee, and we’ve been very pleased that she joined our staff,” Prudoff said.
Prudoff said he wasn’t aware an investigation was taking place, but he would not comment on whether he’s heard complaints about Arendt.
In addition to his duties for the city, Arendt also serves on county Commissioner Lori Kokoski’s re-election campaign committee. Kokoski said she doesn’t believe the allegations.
“I would highly doubt that Joe would do something like that,” Kokoski said. “He’s a good guy —  very professional.”
Lorain Law Director Mark Provenza said he couldn’t comment because of the possibility a lawsuit may be filed.
Pena, who also works as a real estate agent, declined to comment Thursday. Her lawyer, Jonathan Rosenbaum, did not return a call seeking comment.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com and
Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.