Letter: DPW layoff through Town Meeting vote

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

I am wondering if anyone is as confused as I am…..or maybe no one is aware like I was up until [Monday] night.

Did you know that we voted to layoff Bridget from the cemetery as part of our Town Meeting Budget/Agenda?

Apparently we approved Karen* to be in charge of the cemetery (where she will contract out the work) and Bridget* was laid off as part of the budget cut! Now as many of you know Bridget has been working for US the town of Southboro for more than 25 years. I don’t think we would have decided such a thing especially if it was spelled out and discussed during the meeting like it should have been. I find it hard to swallow that we discuss in great lengths the hiring of (2) new Fireman, We are asked to approve a budget for a “Dog Officer” who doesn’t return calls to the tune of $27,000 a year…..But when it comes to laying off an important person to this town and the community…. I feel like it was just hidden in some text at the back of the book, something seems very fishy. I don’t know about anyone else but this seems to be a pattern going on lately in our town/town hall!

Sincerely,

Lisa Cappello

*[Editor’s Note: Ms. Cappello is referring to Department of Public Works employees Karen Galligan, Director, and Bridget Gilleney-DeCenzo, Cemetery Division Supervisor.

Looking  at the Annual Town Warrant, I found the item she refers to under the section titled Budget Highlights:

Privatization of cemetery maintenance – Another initiative is to keep the DPW at a virtual level budget for FY15 by privatizing the Cemetery maintenance. Cemetery administrative operations, records retention, burials and grounds maintenance planning will still be the responsibility of the DPW, however most grounds maintenance would be contracted out under this plan. Current staff retirements allow an opportunity to pursue this with the possibility of no layoffs. The savings of this plan would be approximately $60,000 – not including future OPEB costs or benefit savings.

Budget Highlights weren’t part of the table of contents, so the pages are unnumbered. But if you look at the online version, scrolling down it begins on digital page #45, and this item is on digital page #46.]

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Desiree Aselbekian
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

I am an avid Town Meeting member/attendee. In the past 15 years, I have attended annuals and specials with less than a handful of exceptions. That said, I have never experienced a more secretive and allusive budget than the one we received this year. I served on two school committees for 6 years, and was always questioned extensively before, during, and after every town meeting. Transparency was demanded, and I know I personally did my best to be honest with voters and parents about where their money was going. In fact, the school department continues to publish a line-item budget (in a packet available at TM or at the schools).

In answering your question, Beth, the town should go back to the old way of doing things by publishing a line item budget that is copied and disseminated to the public free of charge and free or inquiry. It should be automatic. I’m not concerned with the extra printing costs associated with this, because it promotes transparency in government. There is no reason to not have a line-itemization of the budget printed in the warrant, as it was a couple years ago.

If a line-item budget was presented at town meeting, I would argue there would be less questions and more efficiency. For example, the capital improvement budget was moved into the operational side of the budget this year, which is fine with me, as it makes sense to have regularly scheduled capital items on rotation for purchase be in operations. However, the budget was not spelled out; instead a town meeting attendee had to request the information as the budget went from $0 to nearly $600K. Selectmen’s response paraphrased, sorry for trying to make things “easier” for you.

“Easier” is not the appropriate reason to stream-line a budget. While efficiency may be a good way of doing business to maximize cost effectiveness, assuming an audience of voters needs something minimized is an insult to my intelligence and the good people of Southborough. We are all smart enough to know when we are getting screwed. And this, folks, is a snow job.

Bridget is a trusted and dedicated employee of this town. My family’s experience with Bridget is similar to that of Ms. Capello. In fact, Bridget refused to accept a $20 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card from my Grandmother, as she said it violated ethics. She explained she takes a test and is bound by state and local ethics. Need I say more about her character and intentions.

This is the person you decide to essentially fire. Not to mention, according to her statements in the Metrowest Daily News article, Bridget was notified of her departure via a letter delivered to her cemetery office from DPW Super Karen Galligan. What a despicable way to deliver career ending news to a 25 year town employee veteran.

Unfortunately, this is just another example of this town’s mismanagement and lack of humanity. I will spare this audience of my understanding of Mr. Purple’s management style, as there are too many negative comments to post. However, I can unequivocally suggest Mr. Purple’s leadership style does not promote a “Family Environment” this town used to possess. It seems like a robot is running this town. There is absolutely no human element to this decision and the delivery of this news. The Selectmen are directly to blame for the way this town is conducting its business. They simply trust the hired hands, who don’t give a damn about this town, to do their bidding. They don’t demand a town hall environment that promotes fairness, kindness, and community. The authority that has been granted to Mr. Purple to make these decisions is outrageous. I don’t just mean day to day decisions either. I am talking about his leadership style (or lack thereof). It is simply disgusting. Even more absurd is the lackadaisical behavior of the Board of Selectmen. The four of these people need to be “laid off” to say the least.

I will be researching the best way to remedy this. My ultimate goal is to restore Bridget’s position and the money in the budget. For the record, it is not just because of Bridget; it’s because we all got duped! We can not stand for lack of humanity, lack of leadership, and especially lack of transparency in our government. It’s an outrage.

John Butler
8 years ago

Just so that readers are not confused by this discussion of line item budgets, line item budgets are available, but are not binding.

All budgets are available in sub-line-item detail on the web site of Advisory Committee as the those budgets come up for discussion in the months prior to Town Meeting. They can be found here: https://southboroughadvisory.shutterfly.com/resources. Some citizens follow these matters rather closely, attending meetings and downloading material.

Since school publication of line item budgets was mentioned, I should note that State law prohibits school superintendents and school committees from being bound to any spending plan expressed in any published line item budgets, which are informational only. They are only bound not exceed the top line amount. The school department has laid off teachers in past years without substantive debate on Town Meeting floor. Town Meetings probably have the power in non-school areas to bind departments to line item “not to exceed” amounts, but certainly lack any authority over individual hiring or firing, or levels of employment. In Southborough we have not asserted Town Meeting control over levels below the top line of a budget in any recent decade.

Lastly I think it important that extreme and defamatory opinions not circulate without someone standing up for the individual under attack, when those extreme opinions lack merit. It is in the nature of the Town Administrator position, and of all positions serving us in the public eye, that some decisions will be unpopular in some quarters. I must say, however, that I think that Mr. Purple serves the Town very well, that his tenure has seen great improvements, and that these attacks on him are wrong, in every sense of that word.

Desiree Aselbekian
8 years ago
Reply to  John Butler

People, including teachers, are laid off all the time in both the public and private sector. The difference here is the lack of information and transparency with this particular layoff. If people had this information readily available and not in a footnote or at the end of packet, I can guarantee you there would have been a public outcry.

While “many citizens,” including yourself, have every waking hour free to attend meetings on nights and weekends, a majority of us work, have families, and are not available to follow every single meeting. That is why we entrust people to be fair, transparent, and honest when it comes to spending our tax dollars and creating budgets that are in the best interest of the town. Cutting the cemetery director is not, in my opinion, in the best interest of this town. In fact, it is a call that involves values. I value the fact that a person whose mother just died has a caring and compassionate person at the cemetery to help them go through the process of burial. I don’t know how you “privatize” that in this town. I am confident I am not the only person who feels this way.

If teachers, police officers, or fire fighters were being “laid off” due to budget cuts we would know about it even if we didn’t attend every meeting. The facts here are clear, this was hidden and deceptive even if there was a small footnote at the end of the packet, which states that retirement would negate potential layoffs. It was clear from the Metrowest article that even members of the advisory committee were not aware of this. Furthermore, I know of at least one selectman who was unaware of this decision.

The entire situation smells! There is no humanity in this situation. It’s awful.

Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  John Butler

I just want to be clear, if the town is going to be taking a vote on a matter which could result in the firing of a 25 year loyal town employee, then it is in my opinion that that should be spelled out specifically so that the towns people when taking such a vote understand the impact their decision may or may not have, I apologize if some feel the word “fishy” is inappropriate however, what would you call the omission of some VERY important language?

buzz
8 years ago

Haven’t we had enough of Karen Galligan

look at her record She is the one who starte Pizza Gate
She was driving the plow which damaged the State Vehicle and now thisShe should be let go

concerned_resident
8 years ago
Reply to  buzz

Hey buzz,

you took the words right out of my mouth, eh, I mean post. Let’s not forget the attempt to close the Swap Shop at the Transfer Station because one or two individuals were rude to TS / DPW employees (a valid complaint, but closing the SS to correct that problem is the quintessential ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ solution).

BTW, now after two years, how come the ‘new SS’ buildings are not operational?

Let take a closer look at trimming the budget by privatizing Ms. Galligan’s position.

Helene Harrington
8 years ago

I was at town meeting both nights – I was remiss, but did not read the back of the warrant – I wonder how many people did. Did not realize they were privatizing the cemetery. I would like more transparency at town meetings.
On this Monday I heard of Bridget being let go.
Our cemetery is one of the best kept in the area and I believe this is because of Bridget’s commitment and dedication to her job.
I hope this decision can be reversed.

David Parry
8 years ago

You are so right Lisa Cappello. I for one was not aware of this. This is yet another example of a loyal and dedicated town employee, who cares very deeply about the cemetery, being “let go” by the DPW Superintendent. But somehow we, at Town Meeting don’t deserve to be informed of this, or the reason why. This is yet another black eye for DPW.

Good luck to Bridget, wherever you are, and if you need any help, just call us.
And thank heavens we noticed that vague hidden wording buried in the text, which gave the Town Administrator complete authority to appoint future DPW Superintendants. It was noticed, quite by chance, by MsDonna McDaniel, who spoke up against it. Town Meeting agreed with her, and we rejected the change, leaving he authority of appointments to high positions to the Board of Selectmen — where it should obviously reside.

There is a serious danger of too much authority being delegated to persons who do not live in our Town.

John Butler
8 years ago

The key parts of this letter are loaded with misunderstandings and the allegations of something “fishy” are inappropriate.

First of all it is not within the power of Town Meeting to hire or layoff employees. So any employee changes that occur are the result of decisions to be taken by the DPW or the employee, not by Town Meeting. Discussion about employment levels can arise during the Town Meeting, as it did for the Fire Department, but action of Town Meeting is not binding with respect to hiring or firing. Since the annual budget of DPW is more than $1.9 million, any action on a single employee is clearly not decided by Town Meeting’s appropriation and Town Meeting has no lower level of legal control. Secondly the DPW budget was not “cut” relative to the prior year. It increased by a little less than 1%. Thirdly, Town Meeting certainly did not “approve Karen [Galligan] to be in charge of the cemetery”. DPW was placed in charge of the cemetery in approximately 1991 by a ballot question during the tenure of John Boland. Lastly, actions outside the power of Town Meeting are not “fishy” simply because they were not discussed at Town Meeting. For example, had this Town Meeting failed to discuss phone message returns by the Animal Control Officer, it wouldn’t have made that topic “fishy”.

Perhaps the fishiness, in Ms. Cappello’s opinion, could have been reduced had she chosen to attend a public discussion of employment levels at the cemetery, as other members of the public did. This arose when Advisory Committee met with Ms. Galligan to discuss the DPW budget on February 24. The minutes, which have been posted online on the Advisory website since shortly thereafter, include the following: [DPW] “Non-water budget; level funding possible due to transfer of cemetery maintenance from staff to contractors (as a result of staff retirements); advisory members supported this approach.” As for whether any staff reductions were the result of layoffs, as alleged by Ms. Cappello, or retirements, as reflected in the discussion, the subject is outside the control of Town Meeting, but Ms. Cappello could have raised that question had she chosen to join us in our meeting. Regardless of the answer, no action of Town Meeting would control the employment.

In summary not everything that Town Meeting cannot control, not even everything it can control, can be discussed at every Town Meeting or Town Meeting would never end. I didn’t hear anyone who was disappointed that Town Meeting ended before a third night. However, a far wider range of topics are discussed in public meetings and documented for an alert public to consider. One can disagree with an action taken before the question, during a floor debate, or after, but just because you happened to miss a particular topic, and disagree with an outcome, does not entitle you to insinuate that those of us working on the public’s business, in the most public way we can, are engaged in something “fishy”.

[Note that as always here I am not speaking for Advisory Committee here and the opinions are solely my own.]

Kim
8 years ago

“Current staff retirements allow an opportunity to pursue this with the possibility of no layoffs.”

So was this statement accurate? If so, why the layoff and not the retirement?

Mary
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

You can’t “expect” someone to retire! We all expect to retire!
They DPW Ms. Gilligan, should have made sure she had that individuals retirement paperwork completed before making such a statement.

southsider
8 years ago

I guess I see the point made by John Butler re: department head authority. I think we all would have preferred a bit more clarity at TM on the issue. I assume there was a strong assumption of that pending retirement.

What I simply can not understand is the firing of a 25 year town employee via a letter! That’s just not right. This woman worked here for 25 years and was not extended this most basic courtesy. Shame on you, Ms. Galligan. Shame on you.

John Butler
8 years ago
Reply to  southsider

Southsider,
I totally agree with you about how this was handled. If the report is correct, and I have no reason to believe it was not, it is just awful.

Furthermore the transition from “this is going to happen without any layoffs” (which seems to be what Advisory was told, as its minutes reflect and as I remember, and Town Meeting was clearly told in writing) to the decision to lay off a 25 year employee was shockingly fast.

My reaction here of course was to correct the headline and the presentation of this letter. Town Meeting did not do this, could not do it within its legal authority, nor did its budget vote mean that this layoff was the only way to manage a subsequent surprise of a projected budget shortfall.

JUst Curious
8 years ago
Reply to  John Butler

John,

Would you think differently of this situation if you learned that Mrs. Galligan personally met with Mrs. Bridget Gilleney-DeCenzo, explained the decision to her and then handed her an envelope with a copy of the notification to her?

Southsider
8 years ago
Reply to  southsider

New reports indicate that Ms. Gilligan DID meet personally with the employee who was laid off. Assuming the accuracy of the new report, I apologize for my criticism of how the actual notification of termination was handled. I still think more clarity could have been provided to TM.

Neil Ferris
8 years ago

Although we moved two years ago to Mashpee, we were residents for over 30 years.
In all of my years I never met a more dedicated, thoughtful, and professional person like Bridget. My Father, Mother and Sister are buried in the cemetery, and I cannot tell you how many times Bridget reached out to my grieving mother who visited every day until she recently passed away. She always had a kind word.

On the professional side, she did a great job with her co workers keeping this very important resting place well cared for and attractive. I don’t know the circumstances but if it is true that she was terminated by letter, her supervisor should be reprimanded and maybe sent back to school to learn what the responsibilities of a leader are to each employee.

I have no issues on the right of the town to hire, fire, layoff anyone at any time, but one would hope that after 20+ years, that Bridget employment would be source of great debate and discussion.

Thank you

Neil

Sal Giorlandino
8 years ago

The undisputable facts are that Bridget is a human being and not some bloodless statistic or number on a balance sheet. She has been treated disrespectfully and I hope that her layoff is reversed by the Selectmen.

Ann
8 years ago

I concur with Lisa Cappello………….something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

This is really sad all the way around.
I won’t repeat (or even agree with) the many points brought up. What bothers me most is that it was not made clear at Town Meeting and thus we were denied any possibility to explore any alternatives. We might well have been able to tell officials to figure out how to keep Bridget.
The statement in the warrant seemed to say only that a contractor would be doing the maintenance/grounds work–NOT that the administrator had to be let go. Didn’t know yet? Not good enough.
Apparently it was known even while we were voting without full disclosure, thus no opportunity to discuss.
And not a hint from the Selectmen?! Maybe they didn’t know either? What does that tell us?

David Parry
8 years ago

I think that point here is simple. Bridget has been grievously mistreated.

Bridget is a much beloved person, who is above reproach, exceptionally kind hearted, and truly loved in the broadest sense by so many residents. She helped the bereaved in uncounted ways. Anyone who has lost a loved one within the past 25 years knows this only too well, because we must all have had a similar experience. She was far more than a cemetery employee. She was simply exceptional in her job, I will always remember asking her how she could possibly manage to deal with all the despair and trauma that funerals bring, but she was always smiling and supremely happy and content in her job, and felt a calling to comfort families deal with their grief. Bridget really cared, deeply, and anyone who had the privilege to work with her felt it personally.

Her treatment is just so unjust. I simply cannot understand how we, this town, could treat her is such a callous manner. She deserves so very much more. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Rarely have I felt and heard such an instantaneous outpouring of disbelief, anger and grief, from other residents, over what has happened to Bridget. This is indeed a very sad day.

wrong side of the boss
8 years ago

my guess is Bridget was on KG’s naughty list

RB
8 years ago

First off, I wish to thank Bridget for her years of service to the Town. Her hard work does not go unnoticed.

This is a business decision, not a personal one. We seem to forget this! How many people reading this blog have been laid off or lost their jobs at one point in their lives? We may not have liked it, but it happens all of the time for business and or financial reasons.

From what I can determine, Bridget was laid off, not fired, because an employee that indicated that he/she was retiring changed their mind. I don’t know whether or not that employee filed retirement papers, but let’s say for argument sake that they did. I believe that they can change their mind right up to the day prior to retiring. I would venture a guess that if the employee does retire then Bridged will be called back to work.

I do not think Ms. Galligan would have proposed this cost savings measure if she had an idea that this would result in a layoff. From the few dealings that I have had with Karen, believe it of not, she is not a heartless, cruel person! And I believe that she did her homework and made presentations to account for no layoffs; but the possibility always exists therefor a disclaimer that it may occur. People may not agree with her management style or choices, but she is doing what we pay her to do as a department head – make tough and often-times unpopular decisions, while trying to be fiscally responsible.

I am sure there are town employees that have faithfully served Southborough for many years, probably as many,if not more than Bridget, that could also face future layoffs in the town hall, fire, police senior center or recreation departments. Are we prepared to spend money, and possibly pass an override to save every employee?

Frank Crowell
8 years ago
Reply to  RB

After looking at this chain and reading the warrant passage, I think you are right on the money. I do not like the idea of loosing a valued 25 year employee, but as you point out this is going to happen more and more.

John Butler
8 years ago

Would the press fall for, “Town Meeting piles snow on parked truck”? Please. The headline should read: “DPW layoff through DPW decision.” Town Meeting’s budget did not determine this action. Furthermore at the time of Town Meeting there was no reason to expect that if the expected retirement did not occur a layoff would be substituted. On the other hand, it is possible that if you made this decision you might like the public debate to center around Town Meeting, as a way of deflecting attention from you.

Unexpected budget shortfalls of this magnitude happen, but this is the first one in my memory dealt with via a layoff of a 25 year employee. In organizations of this size, layoffs of long term employees deserve, and receive, the highest level of management consideration. This should have been discussed at a Board of Selectmen meeting. Many avenues for handing the budget shortfall would have been open for consideration. However, since budget shortfalls are not a legitimate subject for Executive Session, we can conclude from the posted agendas that this topic was not discussed by the Board of Selectmen. So, we have a poor decision about how much consideration to give to this decision, a unseemly haste to layoff a long term employee from a large budget that only begins on July 1, and an absolutely shameful, callous, delivery of this to the employee. No wonder they want to blame Town Meeting.

John Butler
8 years ago

I agree it is a summary of the letter. No fault there. And the letter is taken from the MWDN report. But, it doesn’t withstand any scrutiny.

One of the signs of good management is that it takes ownership of difficult decisions. It doesn’t try to throw them off onto unrelated third parties. Whomever Brad P. talked to should have said, “We made this decision because we thought this layoff was the best way to respond to this shortfall.” But, the failure to own up appears to be just one more mistake in the Town’s process.

neil ferris
8 years ago

One more thought…Town Select persons and Managers should acknowledge their errors on how this was executed and reinstate Bridget immediately.

Leaders need to be professional but also have moral authority and accountability for their decisions.

Thank you

Neil

concerned_resident
8 years ago

Folks,

To the casual reader, it might seem that 28 (now 29) comments regarding the layoff of a long-time, dedicated town employee may be excessive. After all, its just a single person and doesnt impact many people in town (except of course Bridget!). But, in fact, this issue is much more important for other reasons. When an intentional action demonstrates poor judgment, we can all sympathize and give the offending person a second chance. But when two, three or more incidents occur, especially within a relatively short time period, it draws into question not only the offenders decision making skills, burt mindset as well. In this instance, the DPW Director, Karen Galligan, has made several horrendous decisions that have shaken the confidence in her ability to manage the DPW affairs. What other poor decisions has she made that we are not aware of?

More importantaly perhaps is the Bd of Selectmen decision to stand idly by while these errors in judgment mount up. Where is the leadership to take difficult but necessary decisons to correct the source of the problems? Campaign literature abounds with claims of strong and fair leadership but when it matters we dont see action. Should Ms, KG be replaced by someone that has community confidence in sound decision making ability? Probably. Should the BOS members step up and take bold actions to mitigate this ‘personnel’ problem? definitely.

, and Bridget Gilleney-DeCenzo, Cemetery Division Supervisor.
like the “snow-gate” car burying incident and previously the Swap Shop Shutdown bruhaha

Ann
8 years ago

I second

John Kendall
8 years ago

After reading all of these posts, I will say this: First, I have known Bridget Gilleney-DeCenzo since she took over as the Cemetery Superintendent. She is a consummate professional, and was incredibly helpful and understanding when both of my parents were buried at Rural Cemetery. She does a fantastic job and doesn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus, booted out the door, however you want to look at it. Her vast knowledge of the cemetery operations will not be easily replaced by anyone at the DPW, nor by a hired contractor. Second, the budget process is just that, a process. Department heads submit their preliminary budgets in December, and then they are discussed through many meetings with the Selectmen, Advisory, and so on. Having been a town employee myself for 28 years, and attending budget hearings, I never recall any department head attaching any single line item to a particular person, only a position. What has happened with this I don’t think was intentional deception, but planning on someone’s retirement in order to save a position, in my book, is poor planning. Finally, I have met Karen Galligan on a few occassions. I have never formed an opinion of her personally, but that being said, I see a pattern of less than professional behaviour on her part. Similar things happen at the state level. As those who watch the news or read the newspapers know, DCF has come under serious fire from all directions, the commissioner in particular. While what happened at DCF is far more catastrophic than what is happening with our DPW, the end result of “Off with her head!” resulted in the commissioner resigning her position. Perhaps this is what we need of Karen to restore credibility to the Town and to the DPW.

John Butler
8 years ago

As some of you may have noticed, some important new facts have emerged in this story in today’s MWDN. Also some new facts did not appear in today’s report. In particular it seems the earlier reporting of how the layoff message was delivered was misleading, at least to the extent that Karen Galligan did, apparently, meet with the employee during which she hand deliver the letter, presumably after some discussion. Although this may seem to be a small point, the topic became a subject of much condemnation that may not be warranted. So, in answer to “just curious” above, I am pleased to see that the earlier reporting led to incorrect conclusions about this aspect.

However, the more serious problem that emerged later yesterday, and appears today in MWDN, suggests that Town Meeting and Advisory Committee were manipulated through deceit into voting a budget that would shortly be used as a pretext for an undisclosed planned layoff. Although Advisory Committee and Town Meeting were told verbally and in writing that reductions were to be effected through retirement, early documents suggest that the layoff was planned all along. The DPW budget which Advisory Committee received and published online, before our February meeting, included detailed budgets in which the employee’s name was missing, unlike the ones from a year earlier, in which her name is listed. This was discovered yesterday in an examination of documents on the Advisory web site. The documents were received before the meeting with DPW in which we on Advisory were told that savings would be effected via retirement. Also two text descriptions of the budget were received in the same time period and also published online by Advisory Committee at that time. One says there will be a layoff and it appears to be an earlier document, and one that appears to be later saying that the reduction will be effected via retirement. If someone had noticed the missing name at the February meeting, (I did not) they would have just assumed that she was the person who was retiring, and not discussed it, as an unneeded personal discussion in a public session.

I remember from that meeting that Karen Galligan kept saying, “I’m not sure if the BOS is going to approve this.” I said pointedly to her, “Why not? You’re just not filling a position that you say you don’t need after a retirement. That’s a good way to get a savings!” “Well, I’m not sure they will like it,” she said. We joked that I would come to the BOS meeting the next night to help her get it through. Now I suppose that she thought that this story of the retirement wouldn’t hold water much longer. Too bad it did.

Mark Purple wrote an email yesterday to Brad Petrician of MWDN attempting to explain how the employee name could have been missing from a February spreadsheet but the layoff not have been planned until after a supposed non-retirement following Town Meeting. Brad sent a copy of the email to me to ask if I could make sense of it. I cannot. Purple’s email implies, as I read it, that the laid-off employee was going into another position, that the spreadsheet was declaring that her position was being abolished, not that she was being laid off. This however would require that there was another position for which she was qualified that was being vacated and that happened to exactly match her salary. Unless there is some other explanation, which we must allow as possible at this point, the story is incredible.

On the surface it looks like they decided to invent the retirement story to get Town Meeting to vote a budget that they could use as a justification for a layoff, and they forgot that they left their real plan sitting in the budget detail sheet on the Advisory web site. I have always believed that full immediate publication of public documents online is useful for public scrutiny. This appears, on the surface, to be such a case. For those of us who have watched Town government closely for a long time it is completely clear that the layoff was far too fast for the cover story. If they had really been surprised by some non-retirement and wanted to keep the employee, there would have been a lot of work to try to find some solution which would have stretched at least into into September, typically. The Town never acts this early to close a budget gap and never, ever, via layoffs. Whether that is good or bad is beside the point. It is telltale. It is possible that there was some potential retirement, and the layoff was merely their contingency plan. However, it was a contingency that was hidden behind written contrary declarations, when instead it should have been public and discussed. All that said, I will suspend any final judgment until the rest of the facts emerge.

Although sometimes layoffs are justified and necessary, they should never be decided upon in any way that resembles this. A person who has worked for us for 25 years deserves, at the least, an intense and prolonged public, if quiet, effort to find alternatives that serve the Town and the person. A hasty dismissal after a hidden, seemingly deceptive, process is morally repugnant.

I want to emphasize however that the action of the layoff, and any change to that, if it is to happen, rests entirely with the Board of Selectmen and DPW, not with Town Meeting. Had Town Meeting passed a budget that was much higher, DPW could still have done this layoff, with a claim of budget inadequacy due to some other needs, and no action of Town Meeting could, or ever can, preserve any specific job. It appears the Town Meeting deception was just a cover story to deflect attention from a management decision.

I sincerely hope that I can later say that the surface appearance of this, as presented here, is significantly wrong, that at least Town Meeting was not lied to. I would love to need to apologize for those suspicions. We’ll see.

Ann
8 years ago

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Jean Marie
8 years ago

Beth … will you be posting the second MWDN article that was published on SAT 5/3?
More detailed information that the residents should be made aware of.
Thanks for all you do!

Mary
8 years ago

So if the employee had retired what would have happened to the employee’s salary?
If the DPW were going to keep a level funded budget would that salary have been included or excluded in the budget?

John Butler
8 years ago
Reply to  Mary

From the details of the budgets that were presented in February, and which remain visible on the Advisory web site, it would be reasonable to suppose that Ms. Gilleney-DeCenzo were the person retiring and her position eliminated. In other words, it would be reasonably expected to handle a situation in which a person was retiring and the position was being eliminated by removing the person and the position from the budget. Since it is asserted now that all along it was a different person that was planning to retire, one would expect that that person’s position would be missing from the budget and, and in answer to your first question, their salary would have gone to pay the salary of Ms. Gilleney-DeCenzo, whose position and salary would remain visible.

John Butler
8 years ago

This post is written as a courtesy to my fellow Advisory Committee members and indirectly to readers here. Although I regularly state that my postings here represent only my own views, not those of the Advisory Committee or anyone else, some Committee members have expressed to me their belief that readers here don’t take that disclaimer seriously enough. I don’t know how many ways to say it. I’ll say, therefore, that if you believe nothing else that I write here, please believe that I err only on my own behalf, and never write here for anyone else or any Committee Those of you who attend Town Meeting and observe the frequent unanimous recommendations from Advisory Committee may suppose that we all think alike most of the time. I don’t see that. If you tell me you like what I have written, I may justly share the credit with others, but your criticisms are for me alone. For the sake of all those who wish to be disassociated from my views, please take this disclaimer seriously.

Patty Peafreen
8 years ago

Has there been any resolution to the layoff? Has Bridget been given her job back?

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