The big cheese and CFO for Atlanta’s rapid transit authority is out of a job after repeated complaints of bullying and on-the-job harassment targeting his mostly Black subordinates, a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed.
Gordon Hutchinson was once among the agency’s top players and credited with MARTA’s dramatic financial turnaround. However, colleagues said he was a terror, making the finance department unbearable with his frequent tirades, outbursts and fits.
Two female workers even accused Hutchinson of making degrading sexual comments about their hair and physique — complaints that were ultimately dismissed by the agency.
After years of dysfunction and even a warning from outside experts about the legal liability posed by the cantankerous CFO, MARTA CEO and general manager Jeffrey Parker quietly relieved Hutchinson of his duties in early October “after it was determined his continued employment was not in the best interest of” the company, according to the newspaper.
MARTA’s handling of the complaints lodged against Hutchinson have since raised questions about how and why he was able to remain in his position.
The allegations against Hutchinson date back to 2016, one of the first filed by a former contracts manager who accused her boss of sexual harassment and creating a toxic work environment based on her race. She said the verbal abuse got so bad that she had to go on leave for anxiety and depression.
“He would bring us into a room and scream at us,” she told the AJC. “This was an awful period in my life.”
In another instance, Hutchinson reportedly made an inappropriate remark about Thomas Jefferson’s sexual relationships with Black women. He later admitted to making the remarks but said he was only referencing a piece of history.
According to internal documents, Hutchinson is also accused of making tasteless comments about his colleagues’ physical appearance. That same female manager said the CFO once asked if she wore a cap in the shower, and if her hair curled when wet. He faced a separate sexual harassment complaint from a program supervisor who reported that Hutchinson told her “you’re looking extra Afro-licious” during a one-on-one meeting after noticing she changed her hair.
The supervisor said Hutchinson would also comment on her waist size, saying she knew “how to dress for her shape,” according to the report.
“It was hell,” she said, recalling a time she was berated so badly that she crawled under her desk an cried. “Every day I was crying going into work. My hair was falling out. My nails got brittle. I was depressed.”
MARTA would dismiss both sexual harassment claims, citing Hutchinson’s spotless record and arguing that there was no way to substantiate their allegations because there were no witnesses
However, an investigative report into one of the claims warned that Hutchinson was a “considerable risk” to the agency, “given his direct, confrontational management style, the fact that multiple witnesses reported Hutchinson’s tendency to resort to yelling, a track record of complaints against him, and that Hutchinson has undergone executive coaching without apparent changes in his behavior.”
Still, he was cleared in both cases and MARTA failed to reprimand him. He was instead instructed to complete race and gender sensitivity training.
Meanwhile, careers of his accusers crumbled; one of the women was fired just four months after an investigation into her complaint for performance issues.
Hutchinson didn’t respond to Atlanta Black Star’s request for comment.