FOX 29 Investigates: Port Authority Assault Allegation

FOX 29 Investigates: Port Authority Assault Allegation

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PHILADELPHIA -

FOX 29 Investigates has learned the Pennsylvania governor's office has been alerted and a law firm hired to probe an ugly allegation of assault by a top official of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority on a female employee.

FOX 29's Jeff Cole reports the executive remains on the job while the authority decides what to do.

Robert Blackburn earns nearly $153,000 a year as a top official with the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.

He's also the focus of an internal probe launched by his bosses into a claim of assault against a female colleague.

Philadelphia's port is an economic engine for the region. It handles millions of metric tons of cargo yearly, including sugar, wood, fruit and autos.

The port is managed out of a multi-story building along the Delaware River by the state-run authority. An 11-member board oversees it.

But on this day its members – appointed by state and local politicians – are not fully focused on the port. They're going in to a closed-door session to grapple with an alleged assault by one of its top officials.

FOX 29 Investigates has learned the chairman of the board has alerted the office of Gov. Tom Corbett and hired a law firm to investigate the alleged assault by Blackburn, its senior deputy executive director, against a female worker at the authority.

The incident is detailed in a Philadelphia Police Department incident report.

It's 3 a.m. along Third and Snyder streets in South Philly late last year. A police officer takes a report from 31-year-old Lindsay Mulgrew, an employee of the port authority.

Mulgrew told the officer Bob Blackburn, her boss, and herself were involved "in a verbal altercation."

The reports reads at some point Blackburn hit the complainant, Mulgrew, "in the face area," causing what the officer writes was a "bruise."

Under the box marked crime or incident classification, the officer writes "assault."

Listed as the offender is Bob Blackburn, a white male described as 6 feet tall and 190 pounds. Under his name appears 3460 N. Delaware Ave. – that's the address of the port authority.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Charles Kopp told FOX 29 News, "We demand the highest level of behavior from our employees, and this incident demonstrated something that we thought might be less than the highest level."

Kopp who is the head of the port's board, took members into that hour-long, closed-door session, much of it focused on the alleged assault.

"There was an incident involving Mr. Blackburn that occurred on Dec. 6 in the early hours of the morning in South Philadelphia that we thought might present some problems for us as his employer," Kopp said.

Blackburn, who is married, was apparently not at the scene when the officer arrived and has not been charged.

The incident report shows the officer advised Mulgrew to make a private criminal complaint and wrote the South 11th Street address of Philadelphia's Domestic Relations Court.

But Mulgrew, who is single, has not pressed charges and has not returned FOX 29's call for comment.

Despite calls, texts and visits to his work and home, Blackburn has also not commented.

"I made the request. I don't think he's going to come down," said Gregory Iannarelli, an attorney for the port authority attorney, when FOX 29 Investigates walked into its offices and urged him to let us talk to Blackburn.

"I think you understand our position," Iannarelli said.

"I do not," Jeff Cole replied. "I do not understand your position as to why Blackburn cannot come down here and talk to me."

In fact, just Wednesday morning, Blackburn jumped back into his SUV and quickly drove off when we approached.

Meanwhile, after that long, private meeting, the board is asking a panel of its members to report back this month on what if anything should happen to Blackburn and what it can do to tighten up its internal rules.

"The board must be concerned about the allegation of violence that's made in that police report…" Cole asked.

"Oh sure, oh sure," Kopp said.

"…of a highly-placed employee in this organization?" Cole continued

"The board was definitely concerned. That's why – that's why it took an hour," Kopp said.

Again, Blackburn is not charged. This month, the port's board is expected to receive those recommendations on what, if anything, should happen to him.

In the meantime, the bill to the authority for that internal probe stands at $13,000, Cole reported.

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