Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Union files grievance over firing of zoning officer

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 12:44 PM EDT

VERNON — The town is facing a union grievance after the dismissal of Zoning Enforcement Officer Abraham Ford on Friday, but Mayor Jason L. McCoy refused to discuss the circumstances of Ford’s termination on Tuesday during a volatile Town Council meeting.

Unaffiliated council member James Krupienski said he saw an advertisement for Ford’s job in Town Hall, and asked McCoy to address why Ford was fired.

“Not publicly, no,” McCoy said.

When Krupienski pressed for more information, Republican council member Daniel Anderson interrupted.

“This is inappropriate,” Anderson said. “Why is he saying what he’s saying?”

Krupienski continued to ask why Ford was fired, but McCoy would not say.

“There are always personnel matters in the town of Vernon and we try to deal with them the best way we can. The job is being advertised,” McCoy said.

Ford was appointed zoning enforcement officer in April 2007, according to a list of elected and appointed officials published that year, and had been earning a part-time annual salary of $28,266 when he was fired.

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 4, Local 818 President Arthur Beirn said the union was told in a voicemail that Ford was fired because of “performance issues,” but said he has been given no other information.

A copy of the grievance the union filed against the town says Ford was fired without just cause and without union representation and progressive disciplinary procedures were not followed. It also maintains that copies of actions taken were not given to the union president.

The grievance asks that the town return Ford to his former position, remove any and all discipline references from his file, and pay restitution to Ford and the union for any and all losses.

Ford was fired Friday and his position was advertised as open on Monday, Beirn said.

The contentious tenor continued throughout the meeting, and Republicans protested when Democratic council member Marie Herbst said she was unsatisfied with information she received from Assistant Town Administrator Peter Graczykowski in response to a freedom-of-information request she made on June 30.

Herbst asked for a definition of the word “intern” as it applies to McCoy’s personal assistant, Christopher D. Bandecchi, his duties and responsibilities, pay rate, and the temporary agency from which he was hired.

Graczykowski provided the Wikipedia entries for the terms “internship” and “temporary work” and a Journal Inquirer article published April 13 in which McCoy is quoted as saying Bandecchi helps him with communications and research.

In addition, Graczykowski printed out a list of temporary employment agencies from the state’s business website and provided a redacted pay stub indicating Bandecchi earns $937.30 per week, or $26.78 per hour.

Herbst also asked for the salary and account from which former temporary employee Paul Griffin was paid.

Public Works Director Robert Kleinhans said Griffin was hired during the winter to fill in for a union member on long-term medical leave and stayed on when another position opened up.

But Griffin’s temporary employment was terminated after he was cited for multiple motor vehicle violations while working for the town and it was learned that he had not had a valid drivers license since 2006.

Griffin was ticketed after he drove to the Police Department on an unregistered, uninsured motorcycle and was questioned by officers.

In his response to Herbst, Graczykowski included two coded budget account detail reports and highlighted three amounts as payments to the temporary agency Hamilton Connections totaling $13,567.17, taken from an account labeled “other fees.”

Herbst said she was unsatisfied not only with the response, but also with the fact that her request for Bandecchi’s job description during a previous council meeting — which McCoy denied — was not included in the minutes of that meeting.

Herbst filed the freedom-of-information request after that meeting, and said McCoy’s refusal to provide the information to an elected official should be reflected in the official record.

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