Fired highway supervisor sues Stonington

Stonington — Fired highway supervisor Lou DiCesare has sued the town, making a number of allegations including that the town retaliated against him for trying to join a Town Hall union and for reporting that town trucks were hauling soil from the high school field project to the Westerly home of a relative of a town hall employee.

He said the town also released his un-redacted personnel file that contained his and his family members’ social security numbers and birth dates to several people who requested it. He alleges the personal information has been spread electronically among highway employees.

Also named in the suit are his former boss, Public Works Director Barbara McKrell, and Administrative Services Director Vincent Pacileo.

The lawsuit states that after DiCesare tried to join a union in the summer of 2014, it became clear to him that he had “a target on his back" and that McKrell “was gunning for his job.”

The town was unsuccessful in blocking him from joining the union.

The suit alleges McKrell took various retaliatory actions against DiCesare, including modifying his duties, circumventing his supervisory responsibilities by overseeing work herself and then accusing him of not performing up to expectations on projects.

At a meeting in McKrell’s office, DiCesare said she loudly berated his work so other employees could hear and then accused him of losing his cool when he walked out.

He said that when he brought up safety concerns to First Selectman George Crouse about McKrell’s handling of snow and ice removal, Crouse told him to talk with McKrell. But neither of them ever spoke to him about his concerns.

Among the other allegations is that during a disciplinary hearing in January, McKrell did not let him have an attorney.

After he returned from a medical leave in March, DiCesare said McKrell took away the town truck he had used for six years, moved his office from the highway garage to Town Hall and gave him an hour-by-hour schedule of how to spend his time.

In April while on vacation, DiCesare said he learned that highway department trucks were hauling valuable soil from the fields project to the Westerly home of the town employee's relative. He emailed Crouse about the issue.

When he showed up for work two days later, he said McKrell gave him a memo to come to her office to discuss her decision to fire him.

When he asked for postponement to prepare and choose his representation, he said she told him “we are doing this now.” He was fired a few hours later.

The suit states media reports based on McKrell's termination memo damaged his reputation. DiCesare is seeking damages, reinstatement to his job, back wages and benefits and attorneys’ fees.

Crouse did not respond to an email seeking comment on the suit Wednesday night.

McKrell suspended DiCesare for five days without pay in January for telling her that he felt she didn’t trust him, disobeying her orders and making errors that she said cost the town $106,000.

“As a result of your insubordination, poor performance, lack of credibility, inadequate planning and financial repercussions to the Town as a result of your conduct your employment is terminated,” McKrell wrote in her termination letter to DiCesare.

But DiCesare, who had worked for the town for 11½ years, including 5½ as its highway supervisor, disputed the charges and said he never had a single disciplinary incident during his employment.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

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