STONINGTON — An arbitrator ruled in favor of the town and two of its officials Friday in the case of former highway supervisor Louis DiCesare II, who filed a wrongful termination grievance after he was fired on April 30, 2015.
In ruling that the town had just cause to terminate DiCesare, arbitrator Peter L. Adomeit, of West Hartford, cited questions about DiCesare's credibility in his allegations against the town.
The decision dismissed DiCesare’s grievances against the Town of Stonington, Barbara J. McKrell, director of the Department of Public Works, and Vincent A. Pacileo, director of administration.
On Jan. 9, 2015, McKrell suspended DiCesare for five days after a disciplinary hearing. Following his suspension, DiCesare took a medical leave of absence from Jan. 21 through March 23, 2015, citing his subjection to hostility and stress from McKrell. On Jan. 26, 2015, he filed grievances with Pacileo disputing the suspension and contending that she had denied his request for personal representation at a pre-disciplinary meeting on Jan. 13.
In the arbitration proceeding, the town said DiCesare failed to fulfill his responsibilities as highway supervisor, which included managing day-to-day operations of the highway department; preparing personnel work schedules; planning advance logistics for upcoming projects; ordering needed materials, and obtaining necessary equipment and supplies. He also did not fulfill his duties in assisting McKrell in prioritizing the department’s projects, scheduling work assignments, inspecting work for conformance with specifications and standards, and reporting back to McKrell on the the work that was accomplished.
The Stonington Public Administrators Association, a collective bargaining unit representing DiCesare, asserted that from the time of his suspension, McKrell and the town conspired to falsify evidence regarding his performance, impose demeaning and humiliating work conditions on him, violate his right to union representation and deprive him of due process.
Adomeit wrote that DiCesare’s credibility became an important factor in his decision. He said that McKrell had documented instances in which DiCesare had made errors, blamed others first, and then offered new explanations after McKrell fact-checked and told him his original explanation was untrue.
Adomeit cited an incident in which DiCesare had been in charge of a paving project in Elmridge and had given an order to install catch basins using a method considered contrary to engineering best practices. Later, when McKrell asked DiCesare about the installation, he said he had assigned the responsibility to Tom Curioso, who was a member of the highway department and is now highway supervisor.
McKrell learned from Curioso that DiCesare had instructed him to install the grates in a particular manner. McKrell also discovered that DiCesare had worked with two other town employees to create workarounds for the installation. When McKrell confronted DiCesare — rather than admitting he had instructed Curioso and the two town employees — said he knew the method was sound because he had used it on previous jobs. McKrell concluded that DiCesare’s explanation was not credible.
Adomeit cited a number of other instances in which McKrell had told DiCesare to follow a set of instructions and he failed to follow through. In one incident, after McKrell had directed him to create written daily plans to help improve his organization, DiCesare fabricated false reports after the fact and submitted them, according to the arbitration documents.
“The grievant’s insubordination by itself warranted termination,” Adomeit wrote. DiCesare’s insubordination after returning from suspension was “regular, sustained, and deliberated and establishes ‘just cause’ for his termination.”
If DiCesare had won the wrongful termination case in arbitration, the award would have been up the arbitrator and could have included all or partial back pay and/or reinstatement.
In a separate arbitration in March, Adomeit ordered the town to compensate DiCesare for his five-day suspension, totaling about $1,515 for five days of pay, and to expunge the suspension from his record, citing improper union representation at a disciplinary hearing.
In December, U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden entered a summary judgment in favor of the Town of Stonington, McKrell and Pacileo on four federal complaints brought by DiCesare. The court also remanded DiCesare’s three state law claims to Connecticut Superior Court.
Meredith Diette, Stonington's labor attorney, who worked on the case, said that Adomeit’s ruling "was a good decision for the town."