Norwalk public works employees: No confidence in DPW director

Updated 8:45 p.m. with comment from Mayor Harry Rilling.

NORWALK, Conn. – A group of Norwalk’s Department of Public Works employees has, for the second time in six years, officially expressed unhappiness with department Director Hal Alvord.

Local 2405 of Council 4 AFSCME, representing 125 Norwalk public service workers in the DPW and other city departments, announced Monday in an emailed press release it has gathered signatures for a petition of no-confidence in the leadership of Alvord and DPW Operations Manager Lisa Burns.

The petition was signed by 75 employees who are either supervised by Alvord and Burns, or who are affected by their decisions, according to Council 4 spokesman Larry Dorman. About 50 of those employees work directly for the DPW, he said, while the others work in areas supervised by the DPW.

The text of the petition: MEMO-noconfidence

Local 2405 President Milt Giddiens said union leadership will ask to meet with Mayor Harry Rilling to discuss the petition and the underlying longstanding basis for the lack of confidence in Alvord’s management.

Reached Monday night in Dallas at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, Rilling said he had not yet seen the petition.

“We have had meetings with 2405, and with Hal Alvord, to talk about how we can work together and make things better,” Rilling said. “I’ll be more than happy to sit down with them and see what we can do” to make things work.

Rilling is due back in Norwalk on Tuesday afternoon.

Dorman would not elaborate Monday on specific complaints, but gave a general overview.

“We want to give the mayor the courtesy of listening to our concerns before we make them public,” he said. He alluded to, among other things, concerns about interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement and management decisions, especially relating to health and safety issues.

The current contract between Norwalk and the union runs through June 20, 2016.

Dorman said none of the issues were raised with Rilling prior to the election or prior to the union’s endorsement. “No way. Not at all,” he said. “That’s why I don’t want to make them public now, before he sees the list and we talk about it.”

In April 2008, Local 2405 members signed a similar petition of no-confidence directed toward Alvord. The workers presented the petition to then-Mayor Richard Moccia, who declined to take any action, according to the press release.
“The concerns we expressed back then are the same ones we have now,” Giddiens said. “Mr. Alvord’s and Ms. Burns’ abusive and heavy-handed tactics are disrespectful to front-line workers and have created a poisonous work environment. We have had a long-standing practice of working to provide the best and fastest service to Norwalk citizens, which is apparently the least of Mr. Alvord’s concerns. Hopefully Mayor Rilling will listen to what we have to say.”

Local 2405 Vice President Hector DeJesus added, “If Mr. Alvord and Ms. Burns can’t respect the employees they supervise, then how can they respect Norwalk taxpayers? Things have to change.”

Alvord said Monday afternoon he had not seen the petition or the signatures, and did not know what the specific problems are.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I have no idea. Other than resolving a lot of grievances, and working on training and things like that, I don’t know.”

An unedited version of this story was inadvertently posted earlier and contained several typos and missing or misplaced words. NoN apologizes for the error.



35 responses to “Norwalk public works employees: No confidence in DPW director”

  1. LWitherspoon

    Can taxpayers hold a no confidence vote in AFSCME 2405?

  2. M. Murray’s

    You could, but you would likely be outvoted

  3. anon

    Quit or quit complaining. Taxpayers are sick of all this bellyaching. Go away.

  4. RU4REAL

    Maybe these folks have legit complaints, we should be willing to listen and not simply dismiss them. Many of them are Norwalk residents just like us and many of the posters on this site may know them or their families personally, so let’s hear them out. Maybe that won’t matter to some but it should, we can at least hear them out before shooting the messengers. What if their right?

  5. LWitherspoon

    Is Local 2405 President Milt Giddiens a Norwalk resident? I believe it came out during the debate over garbage outsourcing that Mr. Giddiens, or another leader of 2405, was living in Milford or some other community to the north with lower taxes.

  6. Same old Same old

    I was thinking the same thing as Lwitherspoon can we the taxpayers have a no confidence vote in regards to the union hacks.. I am fairly certain the hacks would not be happy with the outcome..
    The answer is simple outsource DPW and ALL city functions to private non union companies.. Problem solved

  7. Oldtimer

    What you read may have been about Alvord living in Danbury.

  8. piberman

    Lets encourage disaffected union members to discuss their grievances with their supervisors and Mayor Rilling. Speaking in public is hardly professional and may very well encourage results opposite from what are requested.

  9. RU4REAL

    That’s only one employee Spoon, how about this, Mr. Giddiens is from Norwalk and has family that still live in Norwalk. Mr. Alvord and Ms. Burns don’t live here and I would be surprised if they had family here. Besides Spoon I come up with more than 50 DPW employees I personally know and if you don’t know anyone that works for DPW where have you been, in hiding? You can only come back with Giddiens and maybe someone else lives elsewhere, what! C’mon, besides what does that have to do with their complaints being valid or not. You folks have to stop this nonsense and let the truth come out, then form an EDUCATED opinion. If the employees are wrong feel free to continue trash talking about them, until then wait and see because it makes you look rather foolish with such a rush to judgment without ALL facts.

  10. Bill

    Over paid public sector babies can complain about their bosses because they don’t ever have to worry about being fired for doing a horrible job. Welcome to broke Norwalk 2014.

  11. Norewalk Lifer

    Let the workers talk, they have a vested interest in the betterment of this city, you accuse those who are paid and part of an organization that protects their future and rights as workers, that’s totally Un-American.

    This mayor is right to “listen” what would you have him do? form an opinion without the views of both sides?

    Ridiculous!, I’ve had my own encounters with Mr. Alvord’s organization, and without detail, I was not impressed.
    Not one bit

    Norwalk Lifer

  12. Oldtimer

    That idea that union employees can’t be fired is a fairy tale, probably based on “rubber room” stories out of New York City where poor management has allowed a few bad teachers to avoid firing for years while not working in a classroom. Unions will fight to ensure a member gets due process and is not fired capriciously, but union members get fired regularly, all over the country for misfeasance and/or malfeasance. Do you really believe Union City employees have not been fired for misdeeds in recent years ?

  13. peter parker

    Just another reason to fire Alvord. He is an incompetent on all sides of all issues. Wake up Mr. Mayor.

  14. potaxpayer

    i know few of the DPW employees and all these guys are on pins and needles from the time they punch in until they punch out. the management treats them like garbage. i know none of you profectional city worker haters in here would ever take the abuse that these people take. and i’m wondering why they have 2 superintendents working under a director of operations who works under a director, thats what waste our taxpayers money. and what wastes it more is none of these people have a clue of how to run the DPW or manage people. they manage by intimidation and scare tactics period. thats around $400,000 in top management( not including the director) and another $400,000 in supervisors to manage maybe 50-60 people? thats around $16,000 per employee per year. parks and rec has a director and supervisor they treat there employees excellent and the employees look forward to going to work. workers take $5 to $10 and hour paycuts and transfer from DPW to work at parks and rec so they can be treated with respect. DPW and the city officials should use the parks dept. as an example of how to treat workers.

  15. @RU4Real,
    Nope, lived here all my life and don’t know a single soul on the DPW… so please don’t dismiss my opinions like they don’t matter. If you want to go down that road, then because my circle of friends pay double the taxes than what any of these DPW workers do, then our opinions weigh more.
    These workers earn way more than what they are worth or compared to other towns so I’m all for outsourcing these union guys (and take Alvord with you).

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ lilly deacon

      Not taking sides here, but curious about your assertion that you don’t know any DPW workers, but you and your “circle” pay twice as much in taxes as “they” do. How can you know this? Sounds like you are assuming DPW workers all live in “lesser” neighborhoods.

  16. Casey Smith

    @ potaxpayer –
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there recently was a major effort to prevent Mike Mocciae’s contract from being renewed.

  17. LWitherspoon

    There is plenty of evidence in support of the assertion that the City has great difficulty removing Union members who commit crimes or otherwise behave egregiously. For example there was Robert Polselli, the Union employee who used taxpayer funds to purchase equipment for a private aircraft which he used to commute from Massachusetts. Mr. Polselli could not be disciplined, in fact the best deal the City could make was to give him a letter of recommendation in exchange for his resigning! And who could forget Debbie Troy, the union City worker who […] is accused of stealing cash from the City clerk’s office. Ms. Troy got a very long suspension with pay. I don’t recall if she was ultimately fired.

    My point with respect to Milt Giddiens not living in Norwalk is that it puts the lie to any statement from the Union claiming that the Union cares about taxpayers. The Union exists to increase pay and benefits for workers, and fight for work rules that benefit the workers. Over the years these Unions have served their employees very well, which is how we got to a place where the City is paying custodians twice as much as Norwalk’s private sector custodians.

    This comment was edited to remove a potentially libelous. Debbie Troy has not been convicted of stealing money. The trial has not yet happened. Also, she has been terminated from her job, and she exercised her right to appeal that decision.

  18. @RU4Real,
    Working at the DPW and P&R are very far apart on the work spectrum…

    The DPW does far more “dirtier” work out on the streets while the P&R crew, I’ve seen them, have a far loftier and easy going time. They should be making 5-10 less.

  19. LWitherspoon

    @Mark or Nancy
    Thank you for clarifying and adding to my comment.
    If I recall correctly, the City’s Human Resources department gathered enough evidence for it to conclude that Ms. Troy was involved in stealing cash from the City Clerk’s office. A police investigation followed, and the police concluded that there was probable cause for Ms. Troy’s arrest. And still the City has to go through an appeal hearing regarding her termination! More evidence that it is far more difficult than it should be to remove City union workers for inappropriate behavior.

  20. Paul

    Dpw guys get paid the same as parks, same contract. Some dpw guys choose a lower pay grade to bid on parks jobs. Parks works dpw under the table. Have you seen the beach or cran bury park lately?? All with less than 1/4 the guys and 1/4 the management and 1/4 the equipment dpw has.

  21. potaxpayer

    parks employees are treated alot better than DPW workers also, and all the workers at P&R came from DPW. does anybody see why parks workers are better? it can’t be any clearer.

  22. I’m sure they don’t live in “lesser” neighborhoods (see their pay grade). It is just not the ones I’m referring to at all.
    As for assuming – you know that little ole saying, the one you keep bleeping out. Only please reference yourself for the little part of the diddy – I’m not on any side of the assumptions.
    But Mark, oh Mark, you are taking sides… you know it…

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Irish Lilly

      There you go again. We’ve known for some time now. It’s past time. Bye-bye.

  23. RU4REAL

    Okay Deacon ,first of all no one is dismissing your opinion although it is a tad uninformed. Fair enough you don’t know anyone. Do you know anyone that DOES know a DPW employee? Since you have lived here all your life start there and get both sides, I’m sure that one person you do know will gladly introduce you to any employee that will give you the scoop. Bottom line, please find someone because you are simply ignoring the allegations, which in turn makes it worse. Making up stuff to fit hurts your credibility, c’mon Deac cut it out, next time your out during the day, find a DPW worker, easy to find anywhere in the city and talk to them, respectfully of course the same as you would like to be treated, see what you come up with and get back to us. One more thing; take a selfie with the employee and send it to NON for proof, then your opinion may be taken more seriously since you have to speak to that employee for their consent to take the picture! Ready, set, GO!

  24. Suzanne

    One anecdote: I got a view of the DPW in action this morning on my usual walk. Two trucks, one looked new, were parked on the side of a quiet residential street in West Norwalk. The “workers” were, respectively, smoking a huge cigar on the curb with a weed whacker laying beside him and in the cab talking animatedly on his cell phone to a buddy (wasn’t trying to eavesdrop…) I couldn’t figure out the reason for this impromptu break except that maybe they felt entitled? Our taxes at work…

  25. potaxpayer

    @suzanne how did the job they did look when you walked by the next time?

  26. One and Done.

    Some forgot the scale workers at the dump who were caught taking cash. Finally we did fire them, but they did get to keep their pensions.
    What is obvious here is that the mayor is out to lunch once again ignoring both sides of the equation. That the local would need to air out their grievances in public before first bringing them to the mayor says a lot. That the mayor can’t acknowledge for a second the huge burden just placed on taxpayers for an additional $10 million in taxes says even more.
    One and Done.

  27. Suzanne

    potaxpayer: it did not look like anything was done at all. Everything remains as it was.

  28. Never assume. We all remember that old adage. There are only two regular cigar smokers that I know of at the Public Works Operations Division (isn’t that a mouthful. Just another item to thank Mr Alvord for). Both of them are among the hardest workers I know. One of them a regular ‘go ti’s guy for management. They may have been on their lunch or 10 minute coffee break that you are entitled to no matter where you work. The problem for them is their visibility. I know, I know, you pay their salary. As well as I do AND both of them. We all own homes in this city which I still affectionately call ‘town. They may have been waiting for a supervisor because a rush work order came up or another crew to start a larger job. You simply don’t know.
    What you should really be paying attention to is the slow destruction of services under the direction of Mr Alvord. The most glaring of which is yard waste pick up. We used to have pick up twice a month except June,July and August which were once a month only stopping after first snowfall. We also used to have a 3 ton allowance for pickup trucks and trailers combined between the transfer station and yard waste site. This has been reduced to one ton possibly soon to be none if Mr Alvord has his way. This effects every property not just those with city solid waste collection. Sounds like a revenue grab to me.
    One other correction to the person who thought that the weighmasters who were fired kept their pensions – they didn’t. Two lifelong employees paid the price of losing everything they had worked for for a few dollars. I feel sad for their families who are the ones that truly paid the price. But remember these are not the norm. Every workplace has their problem employees. At least city workers are ‘our’ employees which gives us a say in things. If it were a sub-contractor we would have no control.

  29. Oldtimer

    Are you suggesting it would be a better world if union employees could be fired, with no right to appeal, by any supervisor who came to work that day with an attitude ? In your vision, there should be no due-process requirement, nothing to protect firing a long time employee just before he qualified for retirement with a pension ? Who, in your opinion, should have the authority to fire Alvord, with no right to appeal ?

  30. One and Done.

    Oldtimer. In the real world you can fire someone if you don’t like the color of their shoes. Only in the fantasy land of the public sector is there no accountability and lifetime guarantees. It is fundamentally what is destroying our society. The country needs to get back to work that doesn’t involve distributing welfare benefits.

  31. Scott

    Mr Alvord is an ordinanc employee as are all city directors. They hold mayor appointed positions that are stipulated in the city ordnance. They are basically the mayor’s cabinet. If they aren’t doing what the mayor believes is in the city’s best interest he can let them go which is concidered a resignation and not a termination. The policies of directors directly reflect upon the mayor.

  32. LWitherspoon

    I think you have misunderstood my comment. Please read it again. I never said union employees should be fired by any supervisor who came to work with an attitude. What I said was that it shouldn’t be so difficult for the City to terminate a union employee who uses taxpayer funds to purchase equipment for his private aircraft which he uses to commute from Massachusetts. I also said that it shouldn’t be so difficult for the City to terminate a union employee who, after a police investigation, is arrested and charged with stealing cash from City coffers. Well over 90% of City taxpayers can be terminated from their own jobs for such misdeeds, yet they must still pay the bills for arbitrating cases such as Ms. Troy’s.
    I believe the Mayor should have the authority to fire Hal Alvord if he so wishes. I find it interesting that many people, the vast majority of whom are Democrats, are waging a campaign against Mr. Alvord. One would think that if Mr. Alvord were truly serving the City poorly, there would be equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats calling for his ouster.

  33. Scott

    I consider myself neither rebublican or democrat (although still registered democrat since the end of high school 27 years ago when i didnt have a clue about the real world). If anything i lean more libertarian. So I’ve never been in with the far left associated with my union. What i am in with is a level playing field afforded by the rules guaranteed by a labpr contract. All employees in any job should be held accountable for their actions. Union employees can be terminated but they are guaranteed due process unlike at will employees who are frequently abused and terminated. Some rightfully so others not. If every boss was fair and honest we wouldn’t need unions. But unfortunately that’s like believing in world where we dont need guns. It would be nice but not likely in the near future

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