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‘Patronage’ Squabble Erupts Between Mayor and School Board

Sebastian Giuliano says he will file an injunction to block the Middletown Board of Education's hire.

The turf war between the city of Middletown and Board of Education continued Tuesday with the mayor announcing he intends to file a court injunction to block the filling of an open school district position.

Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, in an afternoon press conference in his office, accused the board of violating the city charter, personnel rules and the collective bargaining agreement with the city’s municipal union in filling the assistant payroll supervisor position — one of two open at central office.

Giuliano said the dispute stems from the mayor's appointment earlier this year of a school payroll position, which the board rejected and later froze. They then created a new position, which they filled with a candidate of their choice, the mayor said. "And what is their next step? They take those duties, call it something else, and on their own fill it." 

A bevy of officials were present at the event, including councilwomen Deborah Klekowski, Republican, and Hope Kasper, Democrat; representatives of the Local 466 AFSCME Council 4, including President Jeff Daniels; and Deputy Personnel Director Kathleen Morey.

Giuliano, who is running for a third term in November, further charged the board of “a blatant act of patronage” in allegedly hiring the son-in-law of Kasper, chairwoman of the Council’s Personnel Review Commission.

The individual, who was not named, was ranked last on a qualification list, the mayor said. “How do you get lower than dead last?” he asked.

“It’s a simple power grab but we will not allow it to happen,” Giuliano added.

The mayor has been in an ongoing dispute with the board over who controls certain school district expenditures.

Responding to the allegations, Kasper said indeed her son-in-law was the person selected. “I was aware my son-in-law was applying for original position,” she said.

Summing up, Kasper said the Board of Education “had the job posted, the mayor made his appointment, apparently the board, as he said, didn’t accept his choice. They froze the position and then I received an email from Linda Salafia saying that they posted a temporary position, so that never came before the Personnel Review Committee.”

Not only did the board usurp Giuliano’s authority in filling the position, the mayor said, it upgraded the pay and benefits for a 35-hour-per week job. A municipal union job starting at $16.38 per hour was reposted by the Board of Education, the mayor says, at $18.69 hourly with full-time teacher benefits.

“The BOE had no authority to create a brand new job and put someone in it,” Daniels said angrily.

Reached by phone, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Frechette and Business Manager Nancy Haynes denied the board acted improperly in filling the position.

“The illegality is up to the courts to determine,” Haynes said.

“All we did was we followed procedure … we told the city and the attorney what we were doing.”

“None of this would have happened if the mayor approved our recommendation,” Frechette said, as Haynes expressed confusion. “We’re a little bit puzzled,” she said.

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Darrell Lucas July 20, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Why dont we ask what other mayors and the BOE do in other towns? I understand that there is a rule that says the city must hire all non certified positions. But there is plenty of rules that aren't always fallowed. This is also a job on BOE turf. What dose the BOE of other towns do? Can they hire there own payroll people or is it STRICTLY the city's responsibility? I understand that the mayor questions the morality of the BOE's use of its funds. But nothing was found in the audit to reinforce those feelings and there has been no charges filed. So if in other towns the BOE selects a candidate and the mayor/city usually says OK, then whats with the power struggle here? Dose Mayor Giuliano have nothing better going on with city business then to want to be a bully? Dose the mayor oversee the hiring in the other departments? Dose he question the hiring in the Public Works or Health Dept.? And in the other hand you have the BOE. Why is the BOE being stubborn? Why cant the BOE accept the mayors appointments. Why cant one side just throw up their hands and say "fine have it your way"? This is a fight that isn't worth fighting. All of this for a payroll clerk position. I dont know the exact numbers but I can imagine that more has been spent in court and lawyer fees fighting about a job that dosnt even pay in one year what they have wasted in this squabble. Our Mayor and BOE have used our money. Your tax dollars just to try and prove a point to one another.
Mr. Fixit July 20, 2011 at 04:31 AM
I agree with Darrell's comments above; in addiiton, I'm tired of the pissing fights between the Mayor and the BOE. Wish I had a dime for every dollar of the taxpayer's money that has been spent for atty's in this tiresome match - I suspect it would be sufficient to pay my property tax, due in a few days.
David Sauer July 20, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Middletown is one of very few towns that have the city hiring the non-certified (non-teaching) positions. This has been an area of contention for many, many years. The union, 466, has fought allowing the BOE to do the hiring going back to the times of David Larson, and if I am not mistaken the issue even came up when Tychsen was the superintendent. Although this has been an issue in the past, and there have been numerous disputes, particularly between Mayor Holzberg and Dr. Larson, it has never risen (sunk??) to this level before.
John Kilian July 20, 2011 at 04:46 PM
This does nothing to dispel the notion that the BOE is operating outside of the law on matters having to do with payroll. You put this together with the Saturday Shredders and you can see why the Mayor wants someone on the outside working on their payroll, and why the BOE is willing to thumb their nose at the City Charter to prevent someone from the outside coming in.

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