Friday, October 8, 2010

Smith Accuses Mayor and Personnel Director of Intimidation

By Kevin Smith

Who Is The Bully Mr. Mayor?

I am sitting here reading the last few days of articles and comments from the Middletown Press and the Middletown Eye regarding the Council and Police Chief. I am amazed at the comments of the Mayor claiming that the Council people are a bunch of bullies. Either he doesn’t know what the word means or his hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Let’s talk about what a bully really is. My wife is an employee of the Middletown Board of Education and has been since May 2010. On September 17, 2010 she received a letter from Debra Milardo, Personnel Director for the City of Middletown. The letter was sent at the direction of the Mayor. Ms. Milardo informed my wife that her employment was not recognized by the City and she would not be paid for any further work that she performs. While the strident tone of the letter was not appreciated, I understand that this matter is in Court, where it should be decided and hopefully will be soon. Either the Mayor is right or the Board of Education will prevail and everyone can move on.

The last part of the letter, however, was something different. Ms. Milardo, at the direction of the Mayor, informed my wife that “Should you appear for the purposes of employment, on City of Middletown property which includes Board of Education locations after this date, the City retains the right to notify the Middletown Police Department on charges of trespassing. It is our sincere hope that this action does not have to be taken.”

This, Mr. Mayor, is bullying. When a public official uses their official position to threaten, bully and intimidate a citizen with preposterous claims of possible arrest that is more than bullying it is an abuse of authority. Neither the Mayor nor Ms. Milardo could possibly have legitimately had my wife arrested for trespass. Her place of employment was private property on Main Street leased by the Board of Education. At all times she was or would be on the premises it was with the authority of the Board. It is disturbing that the Mayor and Ms. Milardo did not know where my wife worked or whether the City actually had any authority over the property, but the facts don’t matter to a bully. If you get what you want by threats, intimidation, and yes, bullying, then nothing else matters. It is also my understanding that the same or similar letter was mailed to other employees.

In my email to the Council and the Board of Education and at the meeting on Tuesday I brought this issue to the attention of the City Council. I had concerns about the independence of the acting Chief and his ability to stand up to the Mayor. Despite the articles and comments in the Press and Eye that all twenty citizens that spoke at the meeting supported the acting Chief, I did not. Having followed the issues with the Board of Education and the Mayor and the involvement of the Police I suggested that the Chief be questioned about the seizure of the Board of Education building, the arrest of the football coaches and find out what he would do if the Mayor or Ms. Milardo filed a complaint to have my wife arrested for trespass. I was interested in knowing what if any influence the Mayor exerted in these matters and in particular how high up in the chain of command was the decision made to arrest the football coaches. That case was dismissed in court but if they could arrest the football coaches they could certainly arrest my wife.

While I would have liked answers to these questions I am an attorney and as such notified Ms. Milardo and the Mayor that their actions may lead to litigation. The Council, therefore, chose not to ask questions regarding these matters with the exception of Councilman Daley. This does not mean that this was not a significant issue. In fact the acting Chief’s repeated reference to the Mayor as his boss, his need to consult the Mayor on most issues and other comments did nothing to change my concerns about his independence.

The decision regarding the Police Chief involved the Mayor, the Personnel Director, The Council and the Police Chief. They are all big boys and girls who have chosen to be involved in the political process. All of these people have tremendous power and influence over the lives of citizens of Middletown. The Mayor wasn’t bullied by the Council; his candidate for chief did not receive the required votes. Stop whining and move on.

Before I am accused of being a spokesperson for the Democrats on the Council and part of their “lockstep thinking”, I am a registered Democrat that generally votes Republican and in fact I voted for this Mayor. I will not make that mistake again.


Anonymous said...

So it's proper for a lawyer to "bully" someone by threatening a lawsuit, but it's not proper for an employer to do the same? The threat of arrest for trespassing in a building leased by someone is proper. Insinuating that the owner of the physical building is the only person that can have someone removed from the property, is incorrect.
If the Board of Education is found to be at fault on your matter; I hope you send an appology for all to see too?

Anonymous said...

How about if your wife goes to Town Hall and competitively applies for the job just like all the rest of the people who are interested in municipal jobs have to do! So as a taxpayer Mr. Smith you think its okay that the Board of Education can use hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire individuals, without competition, and no disclosure of these hires in their budget? As an Attorney Mr. Smith you feel that it is legal for the Board to use money earmarked for children's education to build their dynasty? Maybe under current Statutes it is legal for them to use the money given to them by TAXPAYERS any way they see fit (at least thats what they always say) but its sure not ETHICAL.

Kevin Smith said...

To Anonymous 8:24
How am I bullying the Mayor? The Mayor has power over the lives of citizens and employees in this town that I don't. He has lawyers that will represent him that are paid for by the City. What a lawyer can do is bring a matter to Court so an impartial magistrate can decide if a wrong has occurred. As you can see from the Food Not Bombs article published today the only way to stand up to this Mayor is in Court. When they get to Court they do not have a good track record and I expect this to continue.

No it is not proper for an employer to bully an employee and there are laws that protect employees from such conduct. To equate the letter that my wife received to the one I sent the Mayor is ridiculous. The Mayor is the one with the power. Many other people received the same letter that my wife did and they don't have the ability to stand up to this Mayor and that is bullying.

Your comments about the trespass issue are incomprehensible to me. I made it very clear that the property where my wife worked was leased by the Board of Education and that she was there with the permission of the Board, the tenant. I never said only the owner can have someone removed from the property. What I said was that this Mayor and this personnel director could not have my wife arrested for trespassing under the facts that exist. Perhaps before you commented you should have looked up the statutes regarding trespass. They are located at Connecticut General Statutes Sections 53a-107 through 53a-110a.You will see that my comments accurately reflect the law as it actually exists not as the Mayor and Personnel director seem to believe from the content of the letter to my wife.

If the Board of Education is found responsible in this matter you can rest assured that I will be dealing with them. I would have been happy to let the matter proceed in Court and live with the results and that is what I said. What is offensive to me is that my wife received a letter threatening her with arrest and if this is business as usual in Middletown we have a real problem.
I am happy to respond to any comments about my commentary but please sign your name. If you are unwilling to back up your opinions by identifying yourself it is hard for me to take the comments seriously.
Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith said...

To Anonymous 9:17
The job was posted on the internet. My wife applied for the job, was interviewed and was hired. No one gave her the job. If only the jobs at Town Hall were always competitive like you say. To pretend that all town jobs always go to the most qualified person with no regard to who they are or who they know is silly.

Are you one of the people that work for the town? Where you awarded the position competitively? I don't know because you did not identify yourself. I would have a much better idea of where you are coming from if I knew who you were but it is easy to write on these blogs in the cloak of anonymity.
Kevin Smith

Anonymous said...

Mr. Smith is quite astute. Most people are afraid of the bullying tactics of the mayor and the personnel director, who should be apolitical. Cheers to Mr. Smith for calling it like it is.

Anonymous said...

Did she quit yet? I'm applying for the job.