Nome city manager placed on administrative leave after harassment claim

Then-City Clerk Tom Moran presiding over Nome’s October 2014 election. (Photo by Matthew F. Smith, KNOM)

Nome City Manager Tom Moran resigned from his office last month after the city faced scrutiny for a perceived lack of transparency and potentially mishandled investigations in the police department. He had intended to continue work as a contract employee but has now been placed on administrative leave after allegations of harassment were brought forward to the City Council at its meeting Monday.

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Moran and Mayor Richard Beneville were both absent due to travel. Moran resigned from his office in September but said he would work as City Manager until October 18th, per the conditions of his contract.

An emotional testimony was brought forth by Ahne Schield, the music director at Nome-Beltz High School, during Citizens Comments in which Schield claimed that Moran had harassed her personally and through text message last year.

Schield says Moran appeared to be pretending to be someone else, including in messages she described as lewd.

“He began to make suggestive comments using words like ‘urges’ and the like,” Schield said.

In one message, Schield says the sender claimed to have watched her arrive home that night. A few weeks later Schield called the number and says she received the voice mail of Tom Moran.

“And that same day we went to the troopers as we have … nothing illegal .. we felt helpless,” Schield said. “What do you do? File a citizen’s complaint? No way that goes straight to the city manager.”

According to Schield, this sequence of events took place last year, before Moran’s contract was renewed.

KNOM reached out to Moran through e-mail. He admitted to sending Schield messages but denied that they were harassing. Moran did admit to pretending to be someone else due to having a previous conversation with Schield about that person; he says that he thought she had his number and would know that he only meant to be joking.

Moran says he believes those messages were discussed in an executive session from which he was excluded.

The Council voted unanimously to place Moran on leave.

In the e-mail, Moran said he understands the Council had to make a difficult decision.

The city council voted to approve John Handeland as the acting city manager.

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