City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden canned two lawyers last month who happened to be the president and vice-president of a newly formed union of City Hall attorneys.
Yep, Bolden (pictured) said.
Nope, said Jim Del Visco, the fired president of AFSCME Local 1303-464.
The union, comprising 11 city attorneys, has filed a complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations, claiming that the city retaliated against its employees for trying to form a union.
“I think the only way you can interpret that is that they were biting the head off of a collective bargaining unit,” Del Visco said.
In January, Del Visco, who’s 51, was told that the city wouldn’t be renewing his annual one-year contract. A senior assistant corporation counsel, he had spent over 17 years as an attorney in the city’s corporation counsel office.
The city also declined to renew annual contracts with Deputy Corporation Counsel Felipe Pastore, and Senior Counsel Timothy Lynch.
Del Visco and Pastore are the president and vice-president of the city attorney’s union, which formed last year.
Del Visco said he and Pastore had never had a negative performance evaluation and were never given any reason why their contracts weren’t renewed.
Click here, here, and here to see Del Visco and Pastore’s performance reviews.
At the time of their dismissal, a press release from the city said only that Corporation Counsel Bolden “did not believe it was in the City’s best interests” to retain the three attorneys.
Asked Monday if he let Del Visco and Pastore go because of their union activities, Bolden said, “The short answer is no.”
He declined to comment further or answer any questions on the labor complaint, beyond issuing this written statement: “As a general matter, I do not engage in extensive press discussions about recently filed matters. This matter should not be treated otherwise. It will be addressed accordingly at the appropriate time.”
The complaint calls for the three attorneys to be reinstated in their City Hall jobs.
“The only outcome we’re interested in is what’s outlined in the remedy,” said AFSCME spokesman Larry Dorman. “We want to see the three employees returned to their positions.”
Dorman said the union is looking to arrange an informal hearing in early March. He said Del Visco and Pastore are still president and vice-president of the union, pending the outcome of the complaint.
Reached Monday, Del Visco, who’s married and has two kids, said he hasn’t found a new job. He said he still hopes to return to working at City Hall.
Del Visco said the union began forming a year ago, and was officially certified in April 2013. “Then we entered into negotiations with the city,” Del Visco said.
Del Visco said the lawyers— who now number eight in the corporation counsel office—have two main goals in their first collective bargaining contract with the city. They want better salaries, after not seeing a raise in five years. And they want to set standards of just cause for dismissal. As it is, the city can reappoint lawyers each year, or not, without any explanation.
“There’s no protection for these people,” Del Visco said.
From April until October, negotiations went nowhere. The matter lapsed into arbitration in October, Del Visco said.
Then on Jan. 24, Del Visco said, he was home sick with a bad head cold when someone knocked on his door and handed him a letter: The city wasn’t renewing his contract.
“I was shocked. Absolutely shocked and outraged,” Del Visco said. He said he had been given a performance review only twice in his tenure at City Hall, and “passed with flying colors” each time.
“As far as I know, I was a valued member of the office,” Del Visco said. “I was constantly told that.”
Although his term wasn’t up until Feb. 1, Del Visco was put on administrative leave for his final week. He was allowed to go in on Monday Jan. 27 to clean out his office, but that was it. “We couldn’t complete any of our work. Everything was left hanging.”
“It was very traumatic, and really an awful experience,” Del Visco said.
Del Visco said there can be only one reason why the city didn’t rehire Pastore and him: to stop the union. “That’s how we view it. I don’t know how you could view it any other way.”
“This is an act of anti-union animus on the part of the corporation counsel,” AFSCME spokesman Dorman said. He called it ironic that just as the nascent union was trying to establish the conditions under which someone could be fired, the union leaders were fired.
“We believe they were targeted for their union activity,” Dorman said.
posted by: Bill Saunders on February 25, 2014 3:41pm
City Hall policy has always been rife with ‘coincidence’.
Boil it down, and it either represents gross malfeasance, or major ineptitude.
Maybe a New TrueVote is in order—
Which do you prefer in City Government, Arrogance or Incompetence?
posted by: Atticus Shrugged on February 25, 2014 5:52pm
There are many reasons to get rid of someone. Fortunately, so long as you don’t fire for bad cause - there should be no legal ramifications. After all, the city employees were merely employees at will.
But let’s try some other theories:
(1) They weren’t as good as Victor previously said and they only received satisfactory reviews because they were protected by the old mayor.
(2) They were let go because Victor decided it was time to make a change within his department to reflect the new administration and its goals.
(3) They did not perform well during the 2013 year.
(4) Any other reason imaginable.
With respect to 3/5, the Mayor should not weigh in on this until it is proven that Mr. Bolden has let the situation slip from his grasps. Otherwise, she should not seek to micromanage his department. What would that say about how she viewed him as a department chief.
For once, I agree with Bill. Let’s wait and see how this plays out.
posted by: Threefifths on February 25, 2014 9:34pm
posted by: robn on February 25, 2014 4:44pm
This office has Bolden and ten other attorneys plus some support staff. Salaries are budgeted at @$1.3M (n/i benefits) for Bolden and ten other attorneys plus some support staff. This means that salaries average nearly $100K. Why are these guys forming a union in the first place?
Because they have the right to.Just like you have the right to form a union.In fact, many lawyers are unionized,including lawyers at Legal Services NYC, who are represented by UAW Local 2320.
posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on February 25, 2014 5:30pm
robn - This means that salaries average nearly $100K. Why are these guys forming a union in the first place?
They’re forming a union because they see how well the other unions in new haven have done. They want in on the lavish benefits and pensions!
Doctors belong to unions.
Please meet some of our doctors and see what they have to say about Doctors Council SEIU on issues such as:
My daughter is a actor.She belongs to SAG-AFTRA
So what is you points.Last if you union haters want the same lavish benefits and pensions.Then what is stoping you from forming a union to fight for those same benfits.
posted by: NewHaven1006 on February 25, 2014 11:49pm
The misinformation in this thread is astounding.
1. The lawyers whose “contracts were not renewed” were not responsible for the loss of any high profile case. Check your facts.
2. The average salary for the majority of the attorneys in this dept is NOT 100K—again, check your facts. FOI it.
3. If the intent was really to change the department, that I could support and understand, but given the lawyers that still remain employed there, that cannot be the true intent.
Having dealt with every single lawyer in that office, with the exception of Lynch, there are a number of them that I could (putting aside the union concerns, which are not taken lightly) accept (or in fact support) having their contracts “not renewed”—having witnessed their poor performance both as attorneys and as workers, team players, and quite simply as people—Pastore and Del Visco are not among them. Quite to the contrary these two attorneys are the among the few (very few) in that office who stand out as helpful, hard working and smart attorneys, and are well respected by the internal departments they have served throughout the years and other attorneys in the community. These are not qualities exemplified in most of the attorneys (or staff) comprising the office of corporation counsel, or at city hall generally. For whatever the reason this happened to Pastore and Del Visco—-anti-union animus or otherwise—it is a disgrace. Anyone who regularly deals with City Hall or the Office of the Corporation Counsel either knows this, is realizing it, or will find out very soon. Whatever the reason behind this—the hypocrisy and dishonesty is a disgrace.
posted by: Threefifths on February 26, 2014 10:02am
posted by: robn on February 26, 2014 8:13am
What’s stopping me from forming a union is I’m lucky enough to have always had reasonable employers who recognize merit. I’ve always supported unions in opposition to exploitation but exploitation is not the case in the NH Office of Corporation Counsel. They’re simply attempting to holding taxpayers hostage because they can.
Can you prove that They’re simply attempting to holding taxpayers hostage because they can.Also they are many employers who recognize merit,But the workers still have a union.Also union people pay taxes to.What
this sound like to me is union busting.
Confessions of a Union Buster.