The city’s former Zoning Enforcement Officer has filed a complaint against the city alleging he was fired because he tried to join a labor union.
The former employee, James Tanner, filed complaints against the city and the labor union that represents city hall employees with the state’s Board of Labor Relations last month.
In his complaint against the city, Tanner says he wants his old job back, as well as back pay, lost benefits, and attorney’s fees. The precise dollar amount is not stated.
Ansonia’s corporation counsel said Monday (April 7) that the city is looking into Tanner’s claims.
The complaint will now be investigated by the state’s Board of Labor Relations.
The next step in the process is for an “informal conference” between Tanner and the city.
If the complaint has merit and can’t be settled, it would the subject of a hearing before the state’s Board of Labor Relations.
Tanner’s complaint is on the agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen, but in all likelihood the Aldermen will take no action beyond formally referring the matter to the city’s attorney.
In his complaint, Tanner said he was hired in July 2010 as the city’s Zoning Enforcement Official and Anti-Blight Officer.
The full-time position currently pays about $46,000.
Tanner says that soon after his hiring, he applied for membership in the union representing city hall workers — United Public Services Employee Union Local 424.
The complaint notes that the city’s collective bargaining agreement with the union doesn’t specifically exclude the position from the union.
“The Union supported Complainant’s application for inclusion in the Union,” Tanner’s complaint says, but the city “refused to recognize” Tanner as a union member.
The complaint says that at some point last November, Tanner tried to join the union again.
The complaint says the union responded by sending the city a memo “concerning complainant’s membership in the union as stated in the CBA,” but offers no further detail on the memo.
Later that month, Tanner received a memo saying his last day of work would be Nov. 27, though he would receive his salary through Dec. 31.
Tanner was one of a handful of city employees who were fired when Mayor David Cassetti took office after his defeat of seven-term incumbent James Della Volpe.
The complaint notes that Tanner was replaced 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 Alderman David Blackwell, who was a police dispatcher and union president when the collective bargaining agreement was signed in April 2012.
The Valley Indy left a message Monday for Tanner’s lawyer.
John Marini, the city’s corporation counsel, said Monday that the city is currently “taking a look at the validity of the claim.”
Marini said Cassetti’s house-cleaning was aboveboard and normal practice for new elected officials replacing long-time incumbents.
“Those terminations were terminations of at-will employees,” Marini said. “It really is very standard in any town.”
He also noted that Tanner’s complaint references actions taken by the city before Cassetti took office.
“The real issue is with the actions taken by the prior administration,” Marini said.