Friday, October 23, 2015

Letter to the Editor: City Deep in Lawsuits under Mayor Draw

For Immediate Publication

October 23, 2015

During the 2011 campaign, Candidate Dan Drew often criticized then-Mayor Sebastian Giuliano- for entangling the City in “expensive lawsuits”. In truth, there was only one lawsuit that was the subject of Mr. Drew’s complaints, that being the dispute between the City and the Board of Education. That lawsuit concerned the limits between the authority granted to the Board of Education by state statutes and the authority granted to the City by state law and the City Charter. It was resolved in favor of the City and the position taken by Mayor Giuliano was ultimately vindicated. In addition, this action resulted in the adoption of practices that make the BOE budgets more transparent and have separated capital expenditures from operating expenditures.

Dan Drew has been in office nearly four years. In that time, he appears to have lost his aversion to lawsuits. Instead of protecting the City from litigation, Mayor Drew has exposed the City to no less than ELEVEN claims in federal and state court, as well as the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. All of these claims are brought by city employees who have claimed violations of employment laws or civil rights, including but not limited to:

Connecticut General Statute §46a-60(a)(4) (Retaliatory discharge or discipline)
Connecticut General Statute §46a-60(a)(1) (Discrimination against a member of a protected class)
Title VII, U. S. Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000e (Equal Employment Opportunities violation)
Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§621-634
Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq.
Connecticut General Statute §46a-58(a) (Deprivation of rights guaranteed by U.S. or State Constitution)
Connecticut General Statute §46a-81c (Sexual orientation discrimination in employment)
Connecticut General Statute §46a-60(a)(5) (aiding or abetting a discriminatory practice, or coercing or compelling the doing of a discriminatory act)
Connecticut General Statute §7-465 (Indemnification for the acts of municipal employees)
Breach of Contract (Collective Bargaining Agreement)
Violation of the Municipal Pension Ordinance
Wrongful Termination of Employment
Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
While employment-related claims are not unheard-of, never in the history of the City of Middletown have there been this many brought in a single administration. Also, while the Giuliano-BOE lawsuit could only result in a “declaration” of the respective rights, duties and obligations of the parties, the current batch of claims exposes the City to potentially large damage awards. At least one has already resulted in staggering sums of money paid to claimants.

These cases are not only expensive in terms of compensatory and/or punitive damages, but significant litigation costs as well, in many cases to “outside” legal counsel; the handling of these cases “in-house” would exhaust the resources of the City’s own legal department. Contrary to the assertions of the Mayor that we are “saving money” and “reducing costly personnel disputes” as a result of his “governmental reorganization”, the truth is that, under his watch, there are more claims and they are costing us more.

The record speaks for itself: Dan Drew came to the Mayor’s Office with no appreciable management skills or leadership abilities and he has not developed any in the time he has been here. Another (now four-year) Drew term is likely to produce yet more of the same. These kinds of claims are not only detrimental to the interests of the direct participants, but to the general climate among the entire municipal workforce as well. Working for an administration that is so demonstrably hostile to its subordinates creates a sense of distrust and anxiety among City employees who only want to do their jobs. They cannot be sure of when – or why – they might end-up in the Mayor’s crosshairs. This is the atmosphere that permeates City Hall under Dan Drew’s stewardship.

A Sandra Russo-Driska administration will restore the sense of security and pride in the City workforce while, at the same time, implementing a new level of professionalism and accountability that will be clear and understandable.

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