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Former Ansonia Official Drops Labor Complaint

by Ethan Fry | Jun 29, 2014 9:31 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia

A former Ansonia zoning official who filed a complaint with state labor officials to get his job back has dropped his claim after reaching a settlement with the city.

The former employee, James Tanner, had filed a complaint against the city with the state’s Board of Labor Relations in March.

In the complaint Tanner said he wanted his old job — zoning enforcement and anti-blight officer — back, as well as back pay, lost benefits, and attorney’s fees.

Tanner was earning about $46,000 annually in the position but was fired along with a handful of other city employees when Republican Mayor David Cassetti took office last December after his defeat of seven-term Democratic incumbent James Della Volpe.

The settlement the city reached with him to resolve the complaint is “not monetary” in nature, Ansonia’s Corporation Counsel, John Marini, said June 13.

City officials have declined to release a copy of the settlement to the public. The document contains a confidentiality clause prohibiting the city from disclosing its contents unless compelled to do so “a legal authority,” Marini said.

However, the state’s Freedom of Information Commission has ruled, several times, that such confidentiality clauses do not shield public agencies from disclosing settlement agreements with employees.

For example, in a 2001 case involving the city of Torrington, the commission noted that “when addressing the disclosure of a settlement agreement between a public agency and a public employee, that such agency may not simply contract away the public’s right to know under the FOI Act by including a provision prohibiting any party to the agreement from disclosing its terms.”

Click here to read the ruling in the case, in which the commission ruled that Torrington had violated the FOI Act.

The Valley Indy filed a complaint with the state’s Freedom of Information Commission June 27 seeking access to the settlement.

In his complaint to the state labor board, Tanner said the city thwarted his attempts to join a union for city employees, and noted that after his firing, his position was filled by “an individual who is related to a former President of the Union.”

That would be David Blackwell Sr., the father of current Seventh Ward Republican Alderman David Blackwell, who was a police dispatcher and union president when a collective bargaining agreement with the city was signed in April 2012.

Tanner’s complaint said the city terminated him “in retaliation for his attempts to join the union.”

At the time, Cassetti said Tanner was let go because of “philosophical differences.”

Tanner’s personnel file — which was released to the Valley Indy June 26 through a Freedom of Information request — indicates he was notified he was losing his job in a Nov. 26, 2013 letter from then-Mayor James Della Volpe.

It was Della Volpe’s administration that hired Tanner in 2010. At the time he was the foreman at a Stamford plumbing company, according to his job application. The form listed as references Steve Blume and Eugene Sharkey, then Democratic members of the Board of Aldermen, and Kevin Blake, at the time the city’s corporation counsel.

The Tuesday, Nov. 26 memo from Della Volpe to Tanner says: “Per request of Mayor Elect David Cassetti, Wednesday, November 27, 2013 will be your last work day for the City of Ansonia. Please remove all personal items from your office and turn in to Mayor’s office all keys, electronic devices and any other city property.”

Cassetti paid Tanner through Dec. 31, 2013, and he also received payment for his unused vacation and sick days.

Paul Oates, a spokesman at the state Department of Labor, said June 11 that Tanner’s complaint was no longer pending.

“He’s no longer pursuing it,” Oates said.

Oates said the labor relations board’s confidentiality rules prevented him from disclosing any other details of the matter.

Neither Tanner nor his lawyer have responded to multiple calls for comment.

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