SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Two doctors at the center of a sexual harassment complaint uncovered in a WBTV investigation have been removed from their supervisory positions at the Salisbury VA Medical Center.
Doctor Parag Dalsania, who had served as Associate Chief of Staff for Primary Care at the Salisbury VAMC, was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint from a female colleague last year.
Documents obtained by WBTV show Dalsania received a reprimand from his boss, hospital chief of staff Doctor Subbarao Pemmaraju, but was not made to undergo remedial EEO training and did not face any other discipline.
An EEO hearing officer at the VA ultimately found Pemmaraju did not take effective action to ensure Dalsania’s harassing behavior of the woman stopped and did not take appropriate disciplinary action, records show.
As a result, the hearing office recommended Dalsania be terminated and Pemmaraju be removed from any supervisory role in the VA.
But emails reviewed by WBTV showed leadership at the Salisbury VA and the VA’s regional office - known as VISN 6 - received advice from a VA lawyer on how to justify not implementing any of the action recommended by the VA hearing officer.
On Wednesday, WBTV learned both men had been removed from their supervisory jobs.
Roger French, a longtime former VA human resources manager who now consults with federal employees to report and expose wrongdoing, said the two men had been removed from their positions following WBTV’s report.
French previously provided records outlining the sexual harassment case to the station.
Through a spokeswoman, Salisbury VAMC Director Joseph Vaughn declines to confirm the personnel move but issued the following statement:
“I take all forms of harassment very seriously, and I expect my employees to do the same. It is important to me for our Veterans and staff to know that every allegation of harassment presented to our management team is thoroughly assessed through various means of investigative tools and if founded, discipline is rendered. Due to the nature of this case, we are not able to discuss personnel actions or on-going investigations.”
Last week, the day after WBTV’s story aired, Vaughn sent an email to all Salisbury VAMC employees attacking the station’s investigation as one-sided and inaccurate and encouraging employees to only read good news about the VA.
Vaughn’s statement did not elaborate on what was inaccurate or missing from the story.
Separately, US Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) said he would inquire about the case following the station’s report.