AFSCME Panel Hears Union Election Complaint

Melissa Bailey PhotoA member of AFSCME’s judicial panel heard two and a half hours of testimony Wednesday from city workers about alleged misconduct in the recent election of a president of the city government managers union.

The hearing was triggered by a complaint that Lynn Piekarz (pictured above), an executive administrative assistant to the city parks director, filed with her international union, AFSCME. She accused the victor of the Nov. 13 AFSCME Local 3144 election, incumbent President Cherlyn Poindexter, of violating city policy and union rules during the campaign, including using city email to run her campaign, creating a hostile work environment, and getting involved in preparing the ballot and election itself.

Two dozen city staffers, including Fire Chief Michael Grant and Commission on Equal Opportunities Director Nichole Jefferson, showed up at the downtown Omni Hotel Wednesday for a hearing on the matter hosted by AFSCME. Up in a second-floor York conference room, they listened and gave testimony before Steve Perble, a judicial panel member of AFSCME international.

Perble said he plans to make a decision in the next couple of weeks. He declined to comment on the proceedings and barred the press from the room.

The allegations against Poindexter include that she campaigned on the day of the union election without taking the day off from work and that she used city email to send copious messages about her campaign and campaign flyers (like the one pictured).

At Wednesday’s proceedings, Piekarz presented 250 pages documenting emails Poindexter had sent and received on her city email account regarding her reelection campaign. Several emails contain messages between Poindexter and Jane A. Ciarleglio, executive director of the state Office of Higher Education, using city and state email accounts respectively.

“Here’s my new flyer. What do you think?” reads one message from Poindexter to Ciarleglio. The two proceed to discuss via government email the choice and placement of photographs for the flyer.

Poindexter adamantly refused to be quoted for this story.

Piekarz is calling for a new election based on the alleged misconduct. She said she is optimistic about the outcome of her complaint.

“I’m hoping that our union becomes more transparent and inviting to everybody,” she said, “and not divisive.”

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posted by: KnowItAll on January 29, 2014  6:29pm

Cherlyn Poindexter has to be the strongest 3144 union president ever.  Everyone, who knows Cherlyn knows full well that she fights for her members and for their rights.  This complaint by this Park’s person is so frivolous and its roots come from the fact that certain people, who think that they deserve raises, haven’t gotten them. The complainer has been spurred by the disgruntled employee, who has been wanting the raise. Members put their names before a union committee, who reviews requests for reclassifications.  The reclassification committee decides which of these requests have merit.  Cherlyn doesn’t even sit on the committee, although she reviews the committee’s decisions at the final stage.  And, in the past she has vehemently rejected requests from the DeStefano Administration that certain people get reclassed.  She has said many times that it would not be fair to skip over people, who have been on the list longer.  This issue is just a matter of sour grapes.  The complainers claim that Cherlyn threatened members to either vote for her, or that they would never see a raise.  Well, aside from the reclass committee, raises are contractual so Cherlyn wouldn’t have any reason to threaten anyone.  Plus, 282 people voted, and the election was really close.  If people were afraid not to vote for Cherlyn, they sure didn’t exhibit that when they went to the polls.  That vote was really close.  These members should be ashamed of themselves.  Cherlyn is the best union president ever.  She doesn’t fold for anyone.  These people should pray that they are never in a city jam.  But if they are, my bet is that Cherlyn will help them.  She does her job and even though she could collect a salary, she refused and does it for free.  She has integrity.  She would never invent issues just to dirty-up somebody else. The disgruntled try to manipulate the election/his own raise.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 29, 2014  7:25pm

Something smells really horrible about these accusations…and I highly doubt that it’s emanating from Ms. Poindexter.  In fact, the most apropos definition in which to use (in my opinion) to describe these contrived accusations is a, Coup d’état.

Cherlyn has been a tremendous advocate on behalf of 3144 as vice president and certainly now as president.

This is the same woman that would visit the domicile of former city employees that were laid off by the DeStefano Administration and bring them groceries, (using her own money I might add).

If for some weak reason a new election is held, the members should support Ms. Poindexter in greater numbers than they did in the first election. 

To the employees that supported Ms. Poindexter in the first election, don’t allow yourself to be bullied or dissuaded from doing the right thing.  Trust me, you will get no better advocate then what you currently have in that of Cherlyn.  Other city unions wish they had an advocate such as Cherlyn. 

In Cherlyn, you know exactly what your getting, a person who refuses to cave unless it’s in the best interest of her members.  Which also includes those in whom she’s well aware of their undermining tactics against her. 

The time for Cherlyn’s supporters/members to show some heart and solidarity, is long overdue. 

Remember, you’re not just fighting for Cherlyn, you’re fighting for the economic future of your family as well.

posted by: 3144 Member on January 29, 2014  7:42pm

Gimme a break, KnowItAll. Most if not all of 3144s members have witnessed the schoolyard bully tactics of our unions leadership. Why should any of us ever receive phone calls while working where the other party starts with “dont say my name” and proceeds to ask for dirt on coworkers? I believe most union members reading this will know who this is referring to but imagine calling them out by name will be a violation of NHIs commenting policy. Why does the union leadership need a microphone to address union meetings besides to ensure they are the only voice in the room, as clearly demonstrated during the last meeting when Lynn tried to defend herself from their various attacks? My favorite was the ludicrous suggestion that a person accused of not fulfilling their union duties was more offended by said accusation than if they were called the N-word! which, by the way, is a hateful term that has no place in a union meeting regardless of your race, just sayin’. But hey, that kind of misdirection tactic is par for the course for 3144 leadership.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on January 29, 2014  8:43pm

I read this article and read the comments. This isn’t about you feeling warm and fuzzy that Poindexter is a strong leader. It is about dishonesty and manipulation.
Now national is deciding whether the election should be held over again? I do not believe this president should not be allowed to run again. Allowing another election is a slap on the wrist for her. Not only did she break the rules, the city should exercise disciplinary action against Poindexter for using city emails to send off when she shouldn’t of and this person from the state should be disciplined also.

posted by: Westville voter on January 29, 2014  9:17pm

Regardless of how well Ms. Poindexter advocates for her members, if she did use city (and possibly state) resources for her election campaign, she violated union rules. Period. If the allegations are true, she also violated city work rules and possibly state law. She must be held accountable for this. If the allegations are true, she must be disciplined, perhaps even terminated, for the rules violation, and ideally prosecuted for the legal violation. That will not happen in New Haven where the unions rule and will protect their own, regardless of the rules. This kind of behavior and efforts to defend it are precisely why New Haven is in deep trouble. Rules matter, except in New Haven city government.

posted by: flyingace15 on January 30, 2014  9:54am

I think it is ironic that even after 274 pages of emails were submitted proving in black and white that Ms. Poindexter campaigned using city time and resources, that members of this union still insist that the election was fair. According to these emails, Ms. Poindexter had access to the ballots! Sour grapes or not, the democratic process was not followed and clearly rules were broken. After these kinds of allegations, I sure hope there is some disciplinary action placed on her by the city as well. It is not right for taxpayers at .40 mill rate to have to pay for Ms. Poindexter’s election committee.

posted by: sotired on January 30, 2014  7:41pm

With a new administration in place, City workers should not take their job status for granted. In the coming months strong leadership of the union will be needed.  I really do not believe that anyone really thinks that a new election with bring forth a new outcome.  I am sure there were violations from both sides.  Its called politics and it is rarely clean.