Stonington suspension of highway supervisor outlined in documents

Stonington - Telling Director of Public Works Barbara McKrell that she doesn't trust him, disobeying her orders and making errors that cost the town $125,000 are among the reasons McKrell said she suspended Highway Supervisor Louis DiCesare II for five days last month without pay.

McKrell's reasons are outlined in a detailed six-page memo and supporting documentation that the town released after receiving a Freedom of Information request from The Day.

But DiCesare, who has worked for the town for 11½ years, six in his current position, disputed each of the charges in his response to the town, which the town released Tuesday.

In an Oct. 30, 2014, memo to McKrell, DiCesare wrote, "it is my opinion that you completely disregard and show a total lack of respect for my years of service to this Town as well as the experience that I bring to my position."

The suspension cost DiCesare, who earns $78,800 a year, approximately $1,515.

Last week DiCesare, who is appealing the decision, pointed out that he had "worked diligently for the Town of Stonington for over 11½ years without a single disciplinary incident."

DiCesare was not a member of a union during the time leading up to his suspension. Since last June, when he formally requested to join the Stonington Public Administrators Association, the town has fought his attempt to join the 14-member bargaining unit.

The state Department of Labor has now approved his membership in the union and DiCesare said union grievances will be filed against the town on his behalf.

"It is also my belief that your attitude towards me personally and professionally is in retaliation because of my petition to SPAA," he wrote in an October memo to McKrell.

McKrell's allegations appear in a Jan. 7 memo to Di Cesare, directing him to appear at an investigatory meeting to determine if the "possible instances of employee insubordination and insufficient planning" warranted disciplinary action.

"I am holding this meeting for various reasons related to incidents of insubordination and the unnecessary and additional expenditures incurred by the Town as a result of your poor planning functions as the Town's Highway Supervisor," wrote McKrell, who cited 10 incidents in 2014 to support her charges against DiCesare.

She said DiCesare's poor oversight of paving work on Deer Ridge Road last year, which she said caused a resident to email former First Selectman Ed Haberek and tell him the work was "amateurish" and "a waste of taxpayers' money," will cost the town at least $115,662 in repairs.

DiCesare wrote in his response that McKrell approved the technique used on the road in an effort to "hold the road together" until additional funds are approved by taxpayers. He told McKrell he would recommend to the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance that they not approve money for the work.

At the end of a Dec. 18, 2014, meeting, McKrell said DiCesare told her, "You do not trust me at all," and "You do not trust me as far as you can throw me."

"This type of outspoken behavior will not be tolerated," McKrell wrote.

DiCesare acknowledged making a "statement of fact" but said he was not insubordinate.

McKrell said that at an Oct. 29, 2014, meeting to discuss changes DiCesare made in leaf collection without informing her, he became "loud and argumentative" and left in the middle of the meeting, an action she called "unprofessional, entirely insubordinate and will not be tolerated."

DiCesare said McKrell was angry and he felt uncomfortable as other staff could hear their conversation. That's when he suggested they continue the discussion when "cooler heads had prevailed."

Last fall, McKrell alleged that DiCesare ignored her instructions to prepare leaf collection equipment and instead had a mechanic work on preparing snow equipment even though the town had told residents it would soon begin leaf collection.

In addition, she said, he allowed a master mechanic to take a vacation day when he was needed to prepare the equipment.

"Your actions resulted in the need to approve previously unnecessary overtime to complete repairs. Your conduct is insubordinate," she wrote.

DiCesare admitted he redirected the employee because of the weather forecast. He said he had no grounds to deny the vacation day and there was time to prepare the equipment.

McKrell said a nearly two-month delay in center line striping of Elmridge Road "resulted in an ongoing safety concern" for the town and Police Chief J. Darren Stewart contacting her.

DiCesare said multiple emails show his efforts to reschedule the striping because of weather and unforeseen difficulties on the part of the contractor.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

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