Former Youth Villages employee speaks out, says he complained about sexual harassment

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- We have new details about a WREG investigation into a former employee at Youth Villages.

Youth Villages fired the director of the Bartlett campus the same month a former resident accused him of sexual abuse 20 years ago.

WREG has uncovered a new allegation about the same, former employee.

WREG spoke with a former, Youth Villages employee who says he worked at the Bartlett campus from 2011 to 2012.

He calls it his first real job out of college, but it came to an abrupt ending.

"I felt like it was a retaliation for me to be basically fired with no investigation."

Retaliation, the former employee claims, not for anything he did, but because of what he says he wouldn't do.

WREG asked, "What made you reach out to us?"

He replied, "I read your story, and it said that he had never had any allegations brought against him, but I filed an allegation against him back in 2012 because I felt like I was wrongfully terminated because, due to me denying obvious sexual advances that he made towards me."

WREG investigates Youth Villages sexual abuse allegation

The former employee told WREG he was a teacher-counselor at the Bartlett campus.

It's essentially an entry level position. He says he was excited when the campus director at the time, Francis Agunenye, began to take him under his wing.

"Having the director talk to you and speak to you and, `Oh you`re a very smart young man'. And build you up, so I`m like oh I`m in there. So I`m thinking this is a mentor. He`s accomplished."

But then he said, things took an odd turn.

"Text messages after I`ve gotten off work, which is just, I mean it`s just, this supposed to be a guy who`s my boss, boss` boss and we`re not on that type of level for him to be texting me. It was very inappropriate behavior."

The former Youth Villages employee also said he would get phone calls after work from Agunenye.

"I`m talking about this is probably 10 o'clock at night, on more than one occasion."

And there was more, he said.

"It was just random, to ask me to come to your house for dinner. I`m like hey is your wife going to be there? And he was like no, it`s just going to be us. So, I`m like no I`ll pass, I`m not interested."

The former employee said things changed after declining that dinner invitation.

"After that, it`s kind of like he started giving me the cold shoulder."

WREG asked, "Did you think to report anything at the time?"

He replied, "No, I didn`t think to report anything at the time because, he, I mean, it was like what would I really report."

The texts and calls, he says, weren't explicit.

"It`s like he was casting the net out there just to, you know, I`m going be just, I`m going to step over the line just a little bit and let`s see if you`re going to, you know, take the bait."

But he says that didn't change how it made him feel.

"Just the way he would look at me, it made me uncomfortable."

Now fast forward to an evening in 2012.

The former employee says he and another worker were attempting to restrain a child to prevent a threatened suicide.

"I tried to take the shoes and the strings out of , and get him out the bed, so he wouldn`t self harm himself."

During the incident, the child fell and hurt his lip while they were attempting to restrain him.

He says the technique used was part of approved protocol, so he was surprised when Youth Villages fired him the next day, due to alleged "aggressive" tactics.

The details are outlined in a written appeal the employee filed with Youth Villages days after his termination in July of 2012.

He forwarded a copy to WREG.

But he says, it was what another employee told him back then that led him to Youth Villages Human Resources and eventually NewsChannel 3.

"One of the other supervisors at a different cottage he was like `It was Dr. Francis'."

He says that supervisor told him Francis Agunenye was responsible for his firing.

After filing the appeal in 2012, the former employee says he met face to face with a human resources executive currently listed as the Managing Director of Human Resources for Youth Villages.

"You outlined, all of your concerns," asked WREG?

"Yes. I did. I told her how you know, inappropriate he made me feel."

The former employee says in that meeting, he thoroughly explained Agunenye's behavior towards him, and how he perceived it.

"Like it was emotional for me, like I literally cried telling her, recounting my story."

But then he says, he was re-assured they'd investigate.

"She said we`ll look into, we`ll be in contact with you, we`ll follow up, and I never heard from her again."

Instead, he says, six years later, what he heard about was our story.

"I just want the truth to be out there...I have nothing against the company, I`ve moved on. I have nothing to gain, just, I saw the story and it spoke to me, because I mean, you know, it was wrong what he did, and for them not to, for it to be no record of it when I made a report, and how hard that was for me to do, I just want it to be on the record."

A Youth Villages spokesperson said they immediately investigated this claim and found it to be unsubstantiated.  The spokesperson also said it's not the company's policy to report the outcome of an investigation to the complainant.

WREG, once again extended an invitation for Youth Villages to speak with us on camera, and they declined.

Agunenye's attorney, Bill Massey told NewsChannel 3 the claim wasn't accurate.


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