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Arbitrator: Stonington had just cause to fire DiCesare

February 7, 2019

Stonington — An arbitrator has ruled that the town had just cause to fire former Highway Supervisor Louis DiCesare II in 2015 and denied the union grievance he filed over his termination.

DiCesare had filed three grievances: two over his termination, which were ruled on together, and one over an earlier suspension.

Last year arbitrator Peter Adomeit upheld the grievance over the suspension, finding the town acted improperly by denying DiCesare union representation at his suspension hearing. The town had to repay DiCesare for the five days he was suspended and remove the suspension from his personnel file. In his Feb. 1 ruling on the termination, Adomeit said that if the town had given DiCesare representation at the suspension hearing, he would have upheld the suspension as being justified based on its merits.

Unless DiCesare appeals Adomeit’s latest ruling, the grievance procedure will be over. Attention will now turn toward DiCesare’s pending lawsuit against the town.

DiCesare sued the town, Public Works Director Barbara McKrell and Director of Administrative Services Vin Pacileo in late 2015 in state court, after McKrell first suspended, then fired, DiCesare, citing a list of expensive errors she said he made on projects and saying that he was insubordinate when he told her he did not trust her. DiCesare disputed the charges in a written rebuttal.

DiCesare has alleged that McKrell began to retaliate against him and “put a target on his back” after his successful effort to have his position included in a union that represents a group of town employees.

In his 38-page decision, Adomeit detailed both the town’s and DiCesare’s position on his job performance. He sided with the town when it pointed out that DiCesare repeatedly failed to comply with McKrell’s directives and assistance to improve his work performance.

“Even without considering the Elmridge paving program, and the other instances of incompetent supervision of paving contractors, the Arbitrator finds (DiCesare’s) insubordination after returning from suspension was regular, sustained, and deliberate, and establishes ‘just cause’ for his termination,” Adomeit wrote. “He placed himself outside of the ability of his supervisor to control his behavior. He engaged in fraud by passing off documents created after the fact as planning documents created the day before. He demonstrated he could no longer be trusted to supervise a major Department of the Town, consuming a large budget and providing essential and visible services. Under the circumstances, the Employer had just cause to terminate.”

Adomeit added that progressive discipline is not needed when an employee is continually ordered to perform the necessary functions of the job and still refuses to do them.

“The grievant’s conduct after his return from suspension was clear: he was demonstrating that he did not need to follow the directives of Ms McKrell. Before terminating the grievant, the Town provided Mr DiCesare with sufficient due process,” Adomeit wrote.

Elsewhere in his ruling, in which he details problems with paving and catch basin projects in town, Adomeit wrote, “The Arbitrator finds that when Ms McKrell confronted the grievant with serious errors, he first blamed others, but after Ms McKrell fact-checked him and informed him his explanation was untrue,” he offered new explanations.

Adomeit also wrote that in his last month of employment, DiCesare submitted planning data which “he pretended was done in advance of the work, but in fact he created it a day or two later. He knowingly submitted false reports plans created after the fact. Ms McKrell concluded he fabricated false reports and submitted them, deliberately. The Arbitrator agrees.”

Adomeit wrote that DiCesare was hostile to McKrell from the day she was hired, even going so far as to take steps to disrupt leaf collection because he did not like the changes she was making.

Adomeit found that McKrell took numerous steps to help DiCesare improve his performance, such as giving him planning time and office hours and schedules to plan work, so he could properly assign employees to projects and keep track of the hours they worked and when they were absent, but he refused to comply. At times he said McKrell did not know where DiCesare was and could not reach him.

Adomeit stated that planning time and office hours are standard management techniques.

“The Arbitrator rejects the Union claim that this was intended to humiliate him or prevent him from performing his work,” Adomeit wrote. He also rejected the claim that there was a conspiracy to have DiCesare terminated.

“She was requiring him to perform his job properly by giving him the organizational tools to make it succeed,” Adomeit wrote.

He wrote that DiCesare’s “insubordination by itself warranted termination.”

He added that DiCesare’s replacement, Tom Curioso, “is performing all of the tasks” that DiCesare could not.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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