Report concludes McKrell didn’t treat Stonington highway worker Oliverio unfairly

Report concludes McKrell didn’t treat Stonington highway worker Oliverio unfairly

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STONINGTON — A 27-page report from the town’s attorney concluded that evidence did not support Highway Department employee Daniel Oliverio’s allegations that he was being targeted by Public Works Director Barbara McKrell.

The Sun received a copy of the report Monday after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. 

In an email sent  at 11:55 p.m. on April 10 to First Selectman Rob Simmons, Oliverio alleged McKrell, who has held her position in the town since Febrary 2014, “engaged in a pattern of targeting and retaliating against him, thereby creating a hostile work environment,” according to the report summary. According to Oliverio’s complaint, McKrell’s conduct dated back to April 2015 when she terminated former Public Works employee Louis DiCesare. Oliverio, who was hired in 2012 as a Laborer/Small & Large Truck Driver for the town, alleged McKrell held him to a different standard than other members of the Public Works Department and took actions to “embarrass or upset him because of his friendships with DiCesare and former Selectman Michael Spellman.” 

Oliverio had also been appointed as tree warden, a position supervised by Simmons rather than McKrell, and from which he resigned on April 25. 

The investigation, ordered by Simmons, comprised interviews of current members of Public Works and other town employees as well as a compilation of relevant records, correspondence, policies and procedures, job descriptions and audio evidence. 

The report went through the history of McKrell’s disciplinary actions against Oliverio for an accident in 2015 and insubordination in 2017. Her actions were compared to disciplinary actions toward other employees and were found comparable rather than retaliatory. 

“The evidence does not support a causal connection between the alleged retaliatory and harassing conduct and Oliverio’s friendships with DiCesare and former Selectman Spellman,” the report stated. 

The process would have been resolved more quickly and simply if Oliverio had submitted his complaint through the proper channels, Simmons said Monday. 

“The proper channels for a complaint by a member of a labor union against a supervisor is going through the union in consultation with union leadership, so by addressing the complaint to me and it was fairly substantial and it ran for several pages — that was outside proper channels,” Simmons said. “This was a lengthy and an expensive process. If the complainant had gone through proper channels, it may well have gone faster and it certainly would have cost less.” 

Simmons said he didn’t know the exact cost of the investigation.

“My guess is it’s in the thousands of dollars. After all you can’t interview 17-18 people for an hour or more and not accumulate costs. But then you have to say what is the cost of an ongoing feud, if you will, so by spending the money and taking the time to examine each of the allegations and put them into context this is an expense that is designed to try to resolve this matter.” 

Oliverio could not be reached for comment Monday.


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