Here we go again: The search for the fine line between compassion and objective managerial decision making.
Firing employees of long tenure can raise public attention, especially in the discharge of a municipal department head in a town where everybody knows everybody. The process can excite emotions, passions and controversy, particular among family and friends, on the one hand, with strongly different positions of those with priority interests in the town's ability to run efficient operations within the vision and direction of its leadership., particularly in lean times such as these. It does happen in human relations that one or more members of a management team cannot adapt to a new vision, direction and/or management style. Each case presents different personalities and circumstances. Having all the facts helps objectivity. The following report attempts to provide information. Comments are invited, as always.
Published in the Southington Citizen 13 January 2012
Town fires longtime employee based on job performance
Last weekend’s announcement that Southington’s Town Engineer/Director of Public Works, Anthony Tranquillo, is no longer in the town’s employ, effective Friday, January 6, 2012, took most of Southington by surprise.
Details of the circumstances surrounding the move by Town Manager, Garry Brumback, were initially withheld in keeping with the town’s traditional policy of maintaining privacy regarding personnel matters.
However, on Monday, January 9th, further information about Tranquillo’s termination was released by Brumback in an e-communication response to an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request of a member of the media. Brumback stated he had met several times over the past 11 months to discuss standards of service and expectations of Tranquillo in the management of his department. Brumback stated he formally met with Tranquillo and Town Attorney, Mark Sciota, on Aug 4th to express his concern that Tranquillo was making no progress toward meeting expectations, outlining those areas that needed significant improvement.
Brumback said he also met with Tranquillo and the Town Attorney on December 16th and that Tranquillo agreed that significant progress had not been made and that ”he understood my position. Mark (Sciota) and I felt as though he (Tranquillo), understood and agreed to retire. The only unanswered question was the date”, Brumback said, adding “These counseling sessions have not resulted in any appreciable improvement and therefore I feel compelled to make a change.”
Brumback said that the position of the Director of Public Works was designed as a critical component of the management team and thus must be held by an individual who both understands and supports the goals of the entire organization. “I don’t believe that Tony is that individual”, Brumback said, “but it was my goal to make this change and allow Tony to retire on his terms but he has decided that he would rather not retire for several more years. This is an option I cannot support and still meet the expectations of the (Town) Council and the community.”
In a letter of termination to Tranquillo, dated Jan. 4, 2012, Brumback states: “You will be entitled to your accrued vacation and sick leave in accordance with our current policies and procedures. You are eligible to retire and we will support that effort should you decide to pursue that option.”
In attempting to contact Mr. Tranquillo at his home, a member of the family stated that he is away and has left instructions to callers to contact his attorney, Gregg Adler, in Hartford. Adler told us that he has been retained by Tranquillo to explore the situation and make an assessment for Tranquillo as to his (legal) options. Adler stated that Tranquillo has been employed by the town for thirty-nine years, that he strongly disagrees with the town manager’s explanation and that he regards the statements concerning their meetings to be inaccurate.
We asked Brumback what’s next for the town in its continuing operations. Brumback pointed out that about five years ago, the Department of Public Works was created to encompass the offices of the Town Engineer, Superintendent of Highways and Parks and Water Pollution Control (sewers). Brumback plans to re-evaluate that decision to consolidate these departments pending his review as to whether that move has actually achieved its intended goal.
Immediate steps have been to appoint Assistant Town Engineer, Jim Grappone, to the interim position formerly held by Tranquillo, with Steve Wlodkowski as Superintendent of Highways & Parks and John DeGioia as Superintendent of Water Pollution Control (Sewers). Brumback indicated that he regards these three key officials with respect and confidence. As for a time table regarding the status of Public Works, he hopes to have a determination by the end of this fiscal year (June 2012). Brumback conjectured that the three departments could be direct reports to the Town Manager with greater efficiency while also eliminating the position of Public Works Director. Brumback added that efficiency in providing quality services as required by the community and the upgrading of the town’s infrastructure remain top priorities.