Labor Relations Director Steps Down

Melissa Bailey PhotoAfter the city’s labor relations chief left for maternity leave and didn’t come back, the city is paying a private lawyer $235 per hour to take the lead in negotiating new union contracts for the rest of the year.

Marjan Mashhadi, who joined the city in November of 2011 as director of labor relations, stepped down on March 1 from her $98,000 post following a three-month maternity leave.

Floyd Dugas (pictured above) has been serving as acting director of labor relations for the past several months since Mashhadi took leave. Dugas, a private lawyer with Berchem, Moses & Devlin, is working on an hourly contract, taking on a role historically filled by a public employee. He said he is charging the city $235 per hour and working about two full days per week on labor relations duties.

Dugas will likely stay in that role for the rest of the year: The labor relations chief serves at the will of the mayor, according to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts. Because Mayor John DeStefano plans to retire at the end of the year, any new hire would be guaranteed work only until Dec. 31.

“There’s no way we’re going to hire somebody to be a director in that short of a period,” Smuts said.

In Mashhadi’s absence, Scott Nabel, a city staff attorney in the labor relations office, has been handling day-to-day affairs such as settling grievances; Dugas has been handling contract negotiations for a half-dozen city unions.

Dugas has made progress on at least two of those contracts in the past few months: He brokered a deal on a new police contract, which cops ratified in February, nearly two years after the old contract expired. 

Dugas said he has also come to an agreement with AFSCME Council 4 Local 3144 on the bulk of a new contract for city managers. The two sides have agreed on everything, “except for three issues that are going to arbitration,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is also negotiating with the public works and parks unions. Talks with the fire union have entered binding arbitration, Dugas said, but “the parties continue to have an open line of communication.”

Smuts said the city often hires a private attorney to help when contracts go to binding arbitration. Without a labor relations director, Dugas has simply been doing more work than a private attorney would usually do, Smuts said.

Dugas said he is spending about two full days a week negotiating on behalf of the city in labor talks. He also served as acting labor relations director for several months in late 2011, between the time Craig Manemeit left and Mashhadi replaced him.

Smuts said Dugas has been doing well in his post.

“It’s important to keep these contracts moving along,” Smuts said. And it’s important to have somebody in the job who already has relationships with the union leaders, he added. “Floyd fits the bill on all of those” criteria.

Dugas is perhaps best known as the lead investigator in a probe into allegations of grade-changing at Hillhouse High School. He also has three contracts with the Board of Education, representing them on student matters, labor negotiations, and litigation. Those contracts have been “fairly quiet” of late, he said.


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posted by: Noteworthy on April 2, 2013  8:02am

The campaign contribution that keeps on giving is what the headline should read. This is the kind of insider deal that one would hope is not carried on into the future. No bid contracts at the schools; no bid contracts at City Hall have been very lucrative to Dugas and his firm. If Dugas spends the rest of the year at City Hall, he will be paid approximately $200K vs. the $98K we paid the previous director. Meanwhile, the current budget’s deficit is an estimated $4 to $7 million.

posted by: HhE on April 2, 2013  8:55am

Well said Noteworthy, and if one is paid by the hour, their is a powerful incentive to take one’s time.

posted by: TheWizard on April 2, 2013  10:05am

good investment for Dugas.  For a $1000 donation in 2011 (you can confirm this in the public records), he’s getting easy work at this ridiculous hourly rate.  Just another example of the games DeStefano plays….and that some mayoral candidate would like to stop. 

Any comment Henry F?

posted by: TheWizard on April 2, 2013  10:08am

Oh, BTW, this $235 an hour is going to a Milford firm.  Supporting someone else’s tax base.

posted by: markcbm on April 2, 2013  11:30am

Lets not forget that Mashhadi’s salary likely included non-pecuniary benefits such as health care, sick leave, and pension costs that are not reflected in the salary amount.  Factoring in these costs, the salary amount would rise substantially, reducing the difference between current pay for Dugas and previous pay for Mashhadi.

Second, if Mr. Dugas is in fact the best available person for the job (not saying he is or isn’t), or is at least highly effective in his position, he could hypothetically offset the cost of his work to the city in the form of savings achieved through contracts that are more favorable to the city than the otherwise would have been. 

Food for thought.

posted by: factsifter on April 2, 2013  8:45pm

Atleast Dugas knows what he is doing! Good job with the NHPD contract, good decision to go to artbitration with the NHFD.  I am sure that he accomplishes more per hour in his limited role as negotiator and that the City is getting the best bang for their buck. In City mayoral cycles, taxpayers will not get this opportunity too many times during their lifetime, an outgoing administration willing to negotiate hard with City labor unions, not worrying about what the aldermen say about supporting the labor unions.  How delighful.

posted by: streever on April 3, 2013  9:03am

Why does a man who lives outside of New Haven donate to the Mayor? Did DeStefano explain to him how a regionalization program headed by New Haven could benefit surrounding towns and counties?

Was Dugas moved by compassion for immigrants rights, and felt that his money would be best spent in New Haven?

While I’m sure Dugas is a great lawyer and doing a great job, he should not have been allowed to contribute to DeStefano, full stop.

posted by: newhaven55 on April 3, 2013  9:49am

I hope that the new mayor does not show favoritism. there should be NO more contracts for donations to mayoral campaigns.