Thursday, February 22, 2018

And Justice for All - Inside Town Hall: Another Law Suit?

And Justice For All

Inside Town Hall
Issue #52                                                                                                              Opinions Of A Citizen February 15, 2018                                                                                                             John Milardo 

And Justice for All is a newsletter involving my opinions, views, and commentary as a lifelong Middletown resident.  As my capacity as a former employee and staunch Labor Leader of City of Middletown Unions (retired with 42 years of service), I have a different perspective of how and why public figures do what they do.

Middletown managers’ Union, UPSEU (United Public Service Employees Union) has filed three (3) Union violation complaints against Mayor Daniel T. Drew.  The complaints are on behalf of three (3) female Union members regarding alleged discriminatory practices due to gender, Union and/or political affiliation, and/or favoritism, or other reasons. 

Since the filing of the initial complaint by Board of Education Resource Director Michelle DiMauro, two (2) more female Union members have come forward to file similar complaints.  

Debra Stanley of the Recreation Department, and a female from the Planning, Conservation and Development Department have filed the other two (2) complaints.

Ms. DiMauro’s issue began as a violation of the contract concerning a process for requesting upgrading and job duty changes.  Ms. DiMauro was interviewed by the proper committee, and said committee recommended changes to her job duties and wages.  The next step was for City Human Resource Director Thomas Tokarz, the Chairperson of the committee, to present and support the recommendations before the Common Council for their vote.  The HR Directors support of the recommendation is a mandatory requirement for this committee.  Instead, Director Tokarz took it upon himself (which I don’t believe was his decision) to present Ms. DiMauro’s recommendation to the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) Committee for review and approval.  The OGC downgraded the Management Study Committees recommendation by two (2) paygrades.  Why?  Contractual language is specific that it goes directly to the Common Council.  Presenting it to the General Counsel office is what is called a “pass through”.  No action can or is taken by their office because the contract language doesn’t allow for it, it’s more of a courtesy.  Why was there a deviation for Ms. DiMauro’s position?
When Director Tokarz was interviewed before the Common Council and asked multiple questions of why this position was treated differently, there was no specific or legitimate answer from him.  Just so there is clarity for my readers, Director Tokarz and Ms. DiMauro’s positions are very similar, with the nod going to Ms. DiMauro.  Why should she be paid differently than her male counterpart?  Additionally, two (2) male employee upgrades recommended by the Management Study Committee were approved during the Common Council meeting.

Now to the grievance hearing part of this story.  UPSEU’s contract language for an employee grievance has criteria regarding who the Mayor wishes to be the hearing officer.  It can be himself or his designee.  Mayor Drew did not want to be the hearing officer, so he designated Faith Jackson, who is the Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity Management.  Ms. Jackson heard the City and Union sides of the grievance.  Next step was for Ms. Jackson to render a decision regarding the issues.

What transpired next is, for lack of a better word “sketchy”!  A City Attorney, who was not present at the grievance hearing, later intervened and attempted to take over the decision-making process from Ms. Jackson. After back and forth with the Attorneys office, Ms. Jackson prevailed. 

Ms. Jackson’s decision favors the Union, and her recommendations reflect the fact that there was wrong doing on part of the City.  Ms. Jackson recommended that Ms. DiMauro’s wage complaint was legitimate, and she should have been awarded a three (3) grade increase, which would make her equal to Human Resource Director Tokarz. (Ms. Jackson’s decision also  indicates one of the male employees should not have been given the pay grade increase) Let’s see if the City will adhere to the contractual process and agree with their own designee’s decision favoring Ms. DiMauro.  Or, will the City contest the decision?  If they don’t abide with the grievance hearing decision, it will only prove their disdain for female employees and bargaining in good faith. It’s wait and see time. 

Mayor Drew stated he has “complete confidence” in the work his Human Resource Department does.  How can you say that with a straight face!

Mayor Daniel T. Drew will try to distance himself from the claims that he had anything to do with these three (3) female employees’ allegations.  (My bet is Director Tokarz will be the fall guy.)  It is what it is!  Drew’s behind the closed door ruthful behavior and retaliation is well known throughout the City workforce.  His public persona is very cool and calculating.  Employees are afraid to disagree and get in his crosshairs, because they know how he will react.  He will make life miserable for them.  He will attempt to trump up charges and allegations against them.  Either you are loyal to Dan, or you will be broken down until you are fired, or you quit.  Some have chosen the latter. 

Mayor Drew uses the Office of the General Counsel to do his dirty work for him.  The General Counsel’s office is supposed to do what’s best for the City, not profess their loyalty to a Mayor because they’re afraid he will terminate them if they don’t. The OGC is supposed to stop unlawful issues from occurring, not promote them. 
I’m aware Danny needs just cause to terminate an employee.  Tell that to someone who he unjustly fires, and has to wait two or more years for their case to be heard while waiting in the unemployment line. 

Because the Mayor and General Counsels Office stuck their noses into the fray, UPSEU President Geen Thazhampallath believed that Common Council members should know what was happening to his Union members.  The Human Resource Department and General Counsel’s Office are owned by Drew.  President Thazhampallath informed the Common Council members of what was going on, and the Council felt there was enough evidence to react.

The Common Council has hired independent Attorney Margaret “Penny” Mason of the firm LeClair Ryan to determine if the female UPSEU employees’ complaints are legitimate claims.  My understanding is that Attorney Mason will begin interviews with complainants soon.  Both the Mayor and General Counsel’s Office are to be investigated.  The OGC’s office includes the Human Resource Director.

The three (3) UPSEU employees who have filed Union complaints tells a story of how Mayor Drew views the female workforce.

  Michelle DiMauro:  Job duties are the same or more than her male counterpart, but is paid three (3) pay grades lower.  In the past year or less, Ms. DiMauro has received 124 emails on her work computer from Mayor Daniel T. Drew regarding donating to his failed gubernatorial campaign (I requested this information through FOIA).  Is this a reason Drew has it out for her?  Because she didn’t give him a donation?

  Planning, Conservation & Development employee:  When first hired, the City sent her a “Letter of Intent” with salary, benefits, and other employment related information in it.  She asked if she could start at a higher salary step other than Step 1 as it was less than what she was earning from her former employer.  The City, and then Human Resource Director told her she could not, that she must start at Step 1 of her wage scale.  Dan was Mayor at this time.

Cut to now.  The PD&C female employee transfers to a new position within the City workforce.  Her vacancy is filled by a new male hire at three (3) pay steps higher than what she was hired at.  What happened to you must start at Step 1?
  Debra Stanley:  Ms. Stanley has been a Recreation Department & Community Services employee for almost 25 years.  She was appointed from Deputy Director to the Acting Director of Recreation when Director Raymond Santostefano retired almost five (5) years ago.  To be placed in the Acting capacity, one must be “qualified” to hold the position.  Ms. Stanley applied for the vacancy when it was posted, but someone from the Wesleyan University was hired.  Ms. Stanley was informed by someone on the interview panel that the process was rigged for the new Director.  The new Director of Recreation & Community Services is a female, whom was hired at Step 6 (maximum) of the salary scale.  Ms. Stanley did not receive the same courtesy when she was performing the job.

 There has been a vacancy for the Director of the IT Department for a couple or more years.  The Assistant Director (must have been qualified) filled in as the Acting Director until recently.  Mayor Drew hired another Wesleyan University connected person to become the IT Department Director.  A male, starting him three (3) paygrades higher than the initial starting salary step.  Seems like Dan doesn’t like to hire from within.  He has a knack of demoralizing the workforce. 

Mayor Drew owes Wesleyan University.  Perhaps after his political career is over he can continue teaching political courses for them like he did a year or so ago.  Violating the City Charter is nothing new for Dan.

  Don’t forget the Mayor’s hire of non-qualified Planning, Conservation & Development Director Joseph Samolis.  Samolis was Drews political aide in the Mayor’s office and not an employee.  Joe started the PC&D job at maximum salary.  The Mayor is now going to hire a Deputy Director for Joe, one with credentials’ he doesn’t possess.  Word is out there that it will be a politically connected contributor.  I’ve also heard this department wants to hire a Zoning Enforcement Officer who is not qualified for the position.  Way to go Middletown.  One of the most important departments being orchestrated by non-qualified people.  Bring on the consultants please!  They don’t contribute big money to Dan’s campaigns for nothing. 
I understand that Mr. Samolis is in attendance during the interview process.  He was in attendance when the City was looking for a PC&D director too, then decided he should be the next Director, and Dan obliged.

  Just so you all know, there is a vacancy for the Deputy Director of Central Communications.  A female employee outside of the bargaining unit was given a Conditional Offer of Employment by Mayor Daniel T. Drew.  She accepted.  (A conditional offer means background checks have been completed, references were called, employers were contacted, and so on.) 
Now, Mayor Dan has asked his own nominee to voluntarily withdraw her name for this job.  She declined to do so.  Why did he make this request?  Because he is appointing a male employee from Central Dispatch as the Deputy Director in her place.  A candidate who has no supervisory experience, which the position requires, and been there for only a few years.  
I smell another lawsuit coming on!

How can I say that Mayor treats women differently than men?  Currently, there is a City employee who has been suspended with pay for over a year.  Claims of harassment were made against him by several female employees.  How and why do you leave someone on paid administrative leave for this long?  A decision to either keep or release this employee hasn’t been made in over a year?  Is Mayor Drew waiting for this person to be eligible to receive a pension?  Ridiculous!  A female employee would have been terminated very quickly.  

All I know is that Middletown’s workforce are dedicated public sector employees and should not be treated this way by a Mayor, or anyone else.  After Attorney Mason completes the Common Councils investigation into these allegations, and individuals are found guilty, ALL of them should step down.

In Brotherhood and Sisterhood.  Stay strong, stay involved, seek the truth!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this newsletter reflect the opinion and view of the author, and should not be construed as fact of advice.  The author is a lifelong Middletown resident and taxpayer, and is sharing his opinion as such.  The opinion and commentary do not reflect of any political party, organization, or citizen group.  This newsletter reflects commentary and opinions which the author wishes to share with his friends.

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