Norwich plans appeal of order to rehire fired rec director

Norwich — The city plans an appeal of a decision by state labor officials that directs the city to rehire fired former recreation director C. Roger Moss, according to Norwich Human Resources Director Brigid Marks.

Moss was fired by City Manager Alan Bergren in November after less than two years on the job for what Bergren described in a termination letter as “poor judgment” and false statements made in response to some allegations. Among other allegations, Moss was accused of using a city vehicle for personal use, allowing softball players to drink beer at a city-sponsored banquet and using a city-owned grill, propane tanks and tent for a Podunk Bluegrass Festival fundraiser in Berlin. Moss is the executive director of the annual festival, which was held in Norwich in 2012.

His firing was quickly appealed by the Municipal Employees Union Independent, Local 506, which argued the termination did not follow progressive discipline standards and that Moss’ only review by the city was “outstanding.”

The state Board of Mediation and Arbitration, in an Aug. 15 decision, ruled that the city did not establish “just cause” to support a charge of insubordination against Moss. In this case, the board ruled, “to be punished as severely as it was here, the alleged insubordination must be accompanied by a willful and deliberate defiance of management’s authority.”

The panel, in its arbitration award, reduced Moss’ firing to a suspension without pay and ordered Moss to be reinstated to his former position without back pay.

“I hope to get back to work as soon as possible,” Moss said Wednesday. “I was hired to be the recreation director, and that’s what I want to get back to doing. Not knowing what was going to happen for nine months has been difficult.”

Moss acknowledged one of the areas he needed to improve on is communication, but said, “All in all I think I was doing a good job. I’ve learned from those mistakes and will do a better a better job to right that ship … and do the best job I know how to serve the residents of Norwich.”

“I love being able to provide services to the community I work for,” he said.

Prior to his job in Norwich, Moss was the director of Parks and Recreation for East Hartford for 15 years.

Department of Labor spokeswoman Nancy Steffens said either party has 30 days from the issuance of the ruling to appeal to Superior Court with a “motion to vacate arbitration award.” It was unclear on Wednesday if the appeal had been filed. Marks declined any further comment because of the pending litigation.

Danielle McMullen, a representative from the MEUI, said by email, “the Panel ordered the City to reinstate Mr. Moss and they need to act on this immediately.”

“How many tax dollars has the City spent on fighting this case, arbitration and unemployment? How many more tax dollars do they plan on spending,” McMullen said.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: SmittyDay

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