On Saturday, a new Southborough Wicked Local report cleared up misconceptions about how town employee Bridget Gilleney-DeCenzo was informed that her job was being eliminated. But it is also raising new questions about whether town administrators intentionally misled the Advisory Committee and town voters.
Last week, SWL reported that the Division Supervisor of Department of Public Works’ Cemetery Division is being laid off after 24 years. The layoff sparked protest, including a letter to this blog’s editor and several angry comments.
The initial report gave some readers the impression that Gilleney-DeCenzo was impersonally notified through a letter. According to the new article, DPW Director Karen Galligan met with Gilleney-DeCenzo to inform her and hand her the letter.
However, the article casts more suspicion on how the town planned its communications about the layoff to the public.
The letter to the editor, from resident Lisa Cappello, and some readers’ comments expressed anger that town voters weren’t informed that the DPW budget included a layoff. The layoff resulted from a budget decision to outsource, an undiscussed budget highlight in the back pages of the Town Meeting Warrant. Some people believe that by approving the budget, voters unwittingly approved the layoff.
Initially, Town Administrator Mark Purple explained that the layoff was the unplanned result of discovering after Town Meeting that another employee’s expected retirement didn’t come through. SWL examined public documents that indicate the town planned to eliminate the position as far back as February. And an Advisory Committee member’s comment on this blog indicates he is feeling deceived by Galligan and Purple.
SWL reports that pre-Town Meeting documents planned for the layoff. Pressed for answers, Purple is now saying they planned to eliminate Gilleney-DeCenzo’s position but move her to an unnamed employee’s position. It is that employee’s retirement that supposedly failed to come through:
Town budget documents created before Town Meeting, however, raise questions about whether officials were preparing for the layoff months ago.
In a budget given to the financial Advisory Committee on Feb. 12, the DPW does not list Gilleney-DeCenzo’s name on a list of salaried employees for fiscal 2015.
“The fact that her name is not on the budget for this year makes me question how the planning for this was coming about,” Advisory Committee member Karen Muggeridge said.
Neither Muggeridge nor Commitee colleague John Butler could recall Galligan informing them at budget meetings that there was a possibility Gilleney-DeCenzo would be laid off.
However, a budget document emailed to the Committee on Feb. 20 by Finance Director Brian Ballantine clearly refers to a layoff.
“Public Works is seeking to privatize cemetery operations, which would result in a savings and the layoff of one position,” the document reads. “Other positions would be assimilated into openings created by retirements.” . . .
Purple said Friday that the unsigned memo was an “early budget document” prepared by himself and Ballantine that was written at a time when a layoff was “more likely.” When pressed about Gilleney-DeCenzo’s name being left off the fiscal 2015 budget, Purple confirmed that her position had been proposed to be eliminated.
He maintained, though, that Gilleney-DeCenzo would have remained employed by the town had the unnamed employee retired.
Advisory Committee member John Butler writes that when Galligan presented the DPW budget to Advisory, she told them that she believed layoffs would be avoided due to an expected retirement. That same intention was printed in the Town Warrant. He is now questioning if the retirement was a ruse:
Mark Purple wrote an email [Friday] to Brad Petrician of [SWL and The Metrowest Daily News] 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. . . 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. . . 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. . . 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.
To read the full SWL story, click here.
To read John Butler’s full comment, click here.