Stonington, insurer have now spent more than $341,000 on DiCesare case
Stonington — The town and its insurance company have now spent more than $341,000 in legal fees in connection with the 2015 firing of former highway supervisor Louis DiCesare II.
The town has expended more than $265,000 on the case, most of it being paid to its former town labor attorney, Michael Satti, while its insurance carrier, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, has spent more than $76,000 on DiCesare’s federal lawsuit against the town.
The $341,000 covers expenditures through Feb. 13. The town released the bills on Wednesday after The Day filed a Freedom of Information Act request for them. The document also reveals that CIRMA expects to spend another $118,000 to cover losses and legal fees connected with the lawsuit.
Unless the town can reach a settlement with DiCesare, it is expected to continue spending money on legal fees as DiCesare still has two union grievances pending against the town that need to be ruled on by an arbitrator and a civil rights lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court. Settlement talks have so far been unsuccessful, as the two sides remain far apart on a settlement amount.
Two weeks ago, the Board of Selectmen replaced Satti, who has been handling the DiCesare matter since the beginning with town's labor attorney, Meredith Diette, who has been handling all other labor issues for the town over the past 18 months.
The DiCesare issue was the only issue Satti had been handling before his replacement.
Earlier this month, arbitrator Peter Adomeit overturned the town’s five-day suspension of DiCesare, saying it improperly prohibited him from having union representation at a disciplinary hearing.
The decision by the arbitrator states that before DiCesare’s hearing with Public Works Director Barbara McKrell, a police officer told DiCesare’s union representative that if she did not leave, she would be arrested.
Adomeit ordered the town to pay DiCesare five days’ pay totaling about $1,500 and remove the suspension from his record.
The DiCesare saga began in July 2014, when the Stonington Public Administrators Association union sought to include the highway supervisor position in its bargaining unit. In September of that year, a one-person election was held and DiCesare voted to join the union. The town objected and on Jan. 21, 2015, the state labor board dismissed the town’s objection and ordered the highway supervisor position to be included in the union.
Before that occurred, though, McKrell issued a verbal warning that was then confirmed in writing to DiCesare on Nov. 4, 2014, for his failure to communicate with her and others about two paving projects and an athletic field project. DiCesare said he did not agree with the verbal warning and would not discuss his performance without his labor attorney present. At this point, Ed Haberek was first selectmen. He resigned a month later in December 2014, and George Crouse was appointed as first selectman.
On Jan. 7, 2015, McKrell sent DiCesare a long list of errors she charged that he made on projects, said he was insubordinate when he said he did not trust her and she asked him to attend a disciplinary hearing. On Jan. 13, 2015, he unsuccessfully requested an extension to prepare for the hearing and was told he could not bring his union representative into the hearing. At the hearing, DiCesare presented a written rebuttal to the charges made by McKrell and reiterated he was being denied representation.
Three days after the meeting, and the day before the state labor board dismissed the town’s objection to including the highway supervisor in the union, McKrell suspended DiCesare for five days. The town fired DiCesare in April 2015.
Adomeit wrote in his decision that the town’s refusal to allow DiCesare union representation at the suspension hearing was a unilateral denial by the town of DiCesare’s rights.
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