Mount Vernon – Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) union leaders along with friends from the labor community gathered outside City Hall, Monday afternoon, to call on Mayor Richard W. Thomas to reinstate two workers he illegally fired and stop retaliation against members of the cities union workforce.
At the press conference, CSEA leaders said Mayor Thomas notified CSEA City of Mount Vernon Unit President Dr. Nicholas Cicchetti on December 31, 2016, that his job was eliminated as of January 1, 2017. According to CSEA, Mayor Thomas gave no reason for the job elimination in the notification letter that was hand-delivered to Cicchetti, while he was home on pre approved sick leave. CSEA leaders claim such a move is highly unusual outside the budget process; as of Dec 31st, city leaders had yet to approve the 2017 city budget according to CSEA union leaders.
[Editor’ Note: The aforementioned budget is the Board of Water budget not to be confused with the much publicized City of Mount Vernon 2017 budget, that elected officials quarreled over in November and December of 2016]
In addition to the dismissal of Cicchetti, on Monday, January 9th, the city terminated John Alleyne, a building inspector, and nine-year employee, without cause and without a hearing, which is a violation of Section 75 of State Civil Service Law.
Section 75 of the State Civil Service Law provides classified workers such as Alleyne the right to representation in disciplinary interrogation, the right to notice of the charges and the chance to respond, and the right to a hearing.
CSEA representatives met with Mayor Thomas last week but were unable to resolve these outstanding issues. As a result, CSEA’s attorneys and labor relations specialists are preparing legal action.
This is not the first run-in Mayor Thomas has had trying to fire CSEA Civil Service workers since he took office January 1, 2016. Shortly after taking office, Mayor Thomas tried unsuccessfully to fire Civil Service Commission Secretary Crystal Collins. The mayor’s efforts were met with pushback from Former Civil Service Commission Commissioner Sylvia Gadsen who has since accepted an appointment from Mayor Thomas as the new Deputy Recreation Commissioner, replacing Diane Atkins.
“This blatant disregard for state law and fair workplace treatment is chilling, to say the least,” CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo tells BW. “We’re putting Mayor Thomas on notice that he should reinstate these workers and knock off the retaliation, or we will proceed with legal action. By ignoring state law, Mayor Thomas is showing himself to be anti-worker and hurting city taxpayers in the process.”
There seems to be a pattern or practice of the treatment of civil services workers from members of the Thomas Administration since Mayor Thomas took office, New Years Day 2016.
Another Mount Vernon Civil Service Employee Larry Fair, who was the supervisor of the community service worker, also previously discussed the hostile working environment in Mount Vernon City Hall, during the Wednesday, October 12, 2016 City Council Meeting (see video below) and again in a letter to the editor written to Black Westchester Magazine, that ran Monday, October 16, 2016.
In the City Council Meeting, Mr. Fair stated for the record what he called “the racist demeanor of City of Mount Vernon D.P.W. Commissioner Ralph Uzzi towards myself and the black community service workers.
“Commissioner Uzzi and Chuck Carretta are going to do anything and everything they can to get me fired or out of City Hall,” Mr. Fair stated. “After nearly 27 years of service and commitment to my city of Mount Vernon. YES, MY CITY! Neither one of them even lives in Mt. Vernon. Both of them should be fired!”
DPW Commissioner Ralph Uzzi has since stepped down and resigned from his post, Friday, January 27th with no explanation or comment from the Thomas Administration.
“Mayor Thomas had the opportunity to do the right thing and bring these employees back to work,” CSEA Westchester County Local President John Staino tells BW. “It would have been beneficial for both the city and CSEA if we could avoid legal action, but we have prevailed before in these cases and will do so again, Instead if being the breath of fresh air he promised to be, Mayor Thomas is disgracing City Hall.
The state Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act, commonly known as the Taylor Law prohibits anti-union animus. CSEA prevailed in a legal action filed in 2013 after Karen Percor, former president of CSEA’s Westchester County Unit, was targeted by County Executive Rob Astorino’s administration for layoff because of her union activity. Percora was reinstated to her county job and awarded back pay. An action an already financially strapped municipality like the City of Mount Vernon can not afford to have happen, and could have been avoided.
We reached out to Mayor Thomas to give him a chance to speak about the firing of civil service workers he told BW;
“Every employee union has the right to support their members. The right to assemble is enshrined in our Constitution and, as Mayor of the great City of Mount Vernon, I fully support the exercise of that right.
My commitment is to the people of Mount Vernon and I will always govern with the best interests of the citizens in mind. We are reviewing positions and making sound economic decisions that benefit Mount Vernon. We are streamlining services, cutting down on unnecessary overtime, and giving Mount Vernon taxpayers more value for their dollar.My door is always open for productive, collaborative dialogue but I will not allow the Mount Vernon taxpayer to be held hostage to past practices that resulted in waste, excess, and an unresponsive bureaucracy.”
Both Mayor Thomas’ predecessors, Former Mayors Ernest D. Davis and Clinton I. Young were on hand to show their support for the union and the hard-working city employees (see video below).
Stay tuned to Black Westchester Magazine for more on this developing story!