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Monday, September 17, 2012

But seriously, folks …

Let the spin begin.

Now that I’ve gotten all the deer jokes out of my system, some very serious issues were raised by George Tremblay’s recent posting on the CCA website.

By Linda Felaco

In “Deer in the headlights,” I wrote about Planning Commissioner and Town Council candidate George Tremblay’s claims that, contrary to what town Democrats have suggested, employee morale among town staff has “blossomed” since the ouster of former town administrator Bill DiLibero. Tremblay offered no proof of this claim, however, and as we all know, the plural of anecdote is not data.

As I’ve said, I have no direct knowledge of working conditions at Town Hall. Based on events, I also have no reason to suspect that my colleagues’ knowledge and impressions of what goes on there are in any way mistaken.

I myself have had the same boss for nearly two decades—whom I’ve always been on good terms with—so I can only imagine what it must be like to have a new set of “bosses” every two years, some of whom have no prior management experience whatsoever.

What I do know is that from what I saw attending most of the Town Council meetings during the “Kill Bill” campaign earlier this year and from what I read on the subject at the time on the website of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance and in their e-bleats, which was not exactly what I’d call civil, if I were working at Town Hall, my morale would be in the toilet.

Keep in mind that the first skirmish in the “Kill Bill” campaign was Parks and Recreation Director Jay Primiano’s e-mail about the ill-fated proposal for sports lighting in Ninigret Park, in which he had the temerity to include some town Democrats and—horror of horrors—Progressive Charlestown in his lengthy list of addressees. As ill-advised as that e-mail may have been, the CCA’s sledgehammer response to it sent a clear message to town staff that the CCA was watching and measuring their loyalty.

Like a good manager, DiLibero, having seen and approved the message before it was sent, took the bullet for Jay—and that boosted staff morale considerably, only to have it dashed again when DiLibero was offed for it.

All this would have been more than enough to make working conditions at Town Hall trying, to say the least.

But Tremblay himself also had a hand in sending a clear message to town staff that they could expect to be put to a political litmus test when he blackballed Melina Lodge (who is now a candidate for Planning Commission) when she bid on the consulting job as affordable housing analyst. This despite the fact that she was qualified by education, experience, and training and she offered to do the work for about one-third the price that Tremblay’s “expert” (his son) said the job could be expected to cost. Oh, and she was the only applicant. But no gig for Melina because she did not pass political muster; Tremblay hired an intern instead.

I’m not even sure why the CCA is raising the morale issue, to be honest. I’m not sure where Town Hall morale ranks on Charlestown voters’ list of priorities, but I wouldn’t even peg it in the top 10, myself. Especially in the current job market. Folks who aren’t working right now probably figure anyone who has a job should be grateful and just suck it up. And a number of commenters on the CCA website felt that given DiLibero’s above-median-income salary, he shouldn’t expect to be treated with kid gloves. Some stated emphatically that they felt that the town administrator worked at the pleasure of the Town Council and that they could fire him for any reason or no reason at all. Guess Mitt Romney and Donald Trump aren’t the only ones who like to fire people.

But in for a dime, in for a dollar, I suppose. The CCA owns the “Kill Bill” fiasco lock, stock, and barrel, there’s no avoiding it. So they don’t have much choice but to try to spin it as best they can.

And spin, and spin, and spin.

Because the rest of their record is no better.