Stonington residents show up again to support highway employee

Stonington — First Selectman Rob Simmons announced at Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting that he expects to be able to discuss the outcome of the town labor attorney’s investigation of a complaint by highway department employee Daniel Oliverio about Public Works Director Barbara McKrell at the board’s next meeting on May 23.

Simmons said he would also have answers on that day to the 18 questions about the Oliverio controversy that a large group of supporters of Oliverio and fired highway superintendent Louis DiCesare asked at the board’s last meeting.

And while he said he knows McKrell has now filed some type of complaint with the town, Simmons said Wednesday he is not aware of its contents as it first has to be investigated by Director of Administrative Services Vincent Pacileo.

Simmons also announced that labor attorney Meredith Diette has completed her investigation into complaints about the actions of the towns’ two building officials made by police detective Greg Howard and he expects to receive her report on Thursday. Simmons, however, said he would not release that report until he reviews it.

“People wonder why they can't get answers right away. The law requires due process," he told a group of residents who attended a second meeting in a row to support Oliverio. “It may be frustrating or slow but it’s fair.”

Oliverio made numerous charges against McKrell in an April 10 email he sent to Simmons and alleges she has unfairly targeted him for discipline. His supporters are upset about what they see as a delay in answering their questions and taking action against McKrell.

One of those is former First Selectman Donald Maranell, who pledged to comment at every upcoming meeting until he gets answers about the Oliverio-McKrell controversy.

Maranell criticized Simmons saying 29 days after Oliverio submitted his complaint, residents still have no answers and now they have to wait another 10 days to get one. Referring to the fact that highway employees have filed nine union grievances since January of 2016, Maranell said less were filed by all town unions during his six years in office.

“What is going on? Can’t you see it,” he asked.

Maranell told selectmen he had heard McKrell is now requesting transcripts of selectmen’s meeting so she can document what the public is saying about her.

“If this is true, fine. Like it or not, she is a public official and we the people have the right to question the performance of town employees, especially management. A department being run in the manner that is now in place is our concern and something the Board of Selectmen must address. Your chain of command is broken. Allowing this to continue is bad policy.”

Referring to Oliverio and DiCesare, resident Don Crawford told the board that when members of respected, native families are losing or quitting jobs, it is an indication of a very serious problem in the upper echelon of the highway department.

Referring to McKrell, he said “this person is costing the town and the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. She still has her job, I’d like to know why she still has her job?”

Through mid-February, the town had spent $265,000 in legal fees and its insurance company another $76,000 on the three union grievances and one federal lawsuit filed by DiCesare. Only one of the grievances has been resolved so far. The town is now also paying Diette to investigate the Oliverio complaint.

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