Cross post from HatCityBLOG
Despite Mark Boughton’s best efforts to suppress information in the lawsuit filed against him by his friend of thirty years and personal assistant, the mayor’s shocking skeletons are FINALLY being exposed to the public.
While I prepare an appropriate response to what I describe as a gross violation of my civil rights by the possible gubernatorial candidate in regards to my reporting on the depositions in this particular case, Register-Citizen columnist Andy Thibault has taken the lead in detailing the horrific dark side of the Boughton administration…a dark side that should shock the public, including people at City Hall who are probably unaware that secret personnel files are in existence.
Thibault also takes note of former human resource manager Carol DeSantie’s laughable testimony regarding her time at City Hall and her “relationship” with the mayor. It has been long alleged by many at City Hall that the mayor and DeSantie had an inappropriate relationship and many questions have been raised regarding the circumstances surrounding DeSantie’s abrupt and sudden departure from City Hall. Nearly ten years later after DeSantie’s departure and questions regarding her tenure at City Hall and her relationship with Boughton continues to go unanswered (or answered in a manner that sounds credible to anyone).
What’s more secret than a public record at Danbury City Hall?
It’s a file with a special name: “anecdotal file.”
It’s kept in a special place, in a folder behind the employee’s personnel file.
“It’s not in the official file,” said Virginia Alosco-Werner, the city’s director of Human Resources. As such, Alosco-Werner does not consider these files to be public records, and they are not necessarily produced for city workers who request their personnel files. “Anecdotal files” about department heads are maintained by the mayor and / or the personnel director.
Alosco-Werner made these admissions in a federal court deposition last summer.
The depositions – suppressed for months – were provided the day after Thanksgiving to the Danbury News Times. The paper had requested the records in September. Mayor Mark Boughton then proclaimed on Dec. 2 in a Twitter conversation with a Hartford Courant editor, “ … The documents in question were released last week … ”
Boughton was reacting to a Cool Justice column documenting the city’s unlawful “order” to a local blogger demanding that he take down posts about public records and refrain from commenting about them. Hat City blogger Al Robinson ignored the threat and said he is preparing new posts to illuminate the background and context of the federal lawsuit against Boughton and the city. In addition, the popular law blog, A Public Defender, weighed in on the attempt to silence Robinson.
If all this sounds pretty strange, welcome to the 2014 race for governor of Connecticut.
Several weeks after a contentious federal court hearing to suppress the depositions, the city of Danbury is still seeking a protective order halting the release of normal and customary discovery information. To top it off, Boughton’s hired gun – attorney Johanna Zelman – shot herself in the foot. Zelman admitted to a federal magistrate that she is trying to shield a political figure: “It does appear there is some kind of ulterior motive … to hurt the mayor who has announced his candidacy for governor.”
Given the content of the depositions, it’s easy to understand why Boughton tried to keep a lid on operations at Danbury City Hall. After all, sometimes politicians have to run on their records.
Besides the secret personnel files, we also get glimpses of the peculiar tenure of a former personnel director linked to Boughton, huge spending to fight Freedom of Information cases and wildly uneven application of disciplinary policies. And that’s just the short list.
The depositions of Boughton and former Personnel Director Carol Desantie are remarkable for what they do not say.
“I don’t recall interviewing her,” Boughton said. “ … Generally, it’s my process to interview people.” Nor did he recall whether there were other applicants or how he had met Desantie. He said the position was not advertised.
“I met the mayor, I met his assistant, [now State Sen.] Mike McLachlan,” Desantie said. She didn’t recall who told her about the job or whether she filled out an application or submitted a letter requesting consideration. She didn’t recall who interviewed her or made the job offer.
Desantie did have a “vague recollection” about talking with Boughton after attending a political event featuring Hillary Clinton, but she would not say whether the Republican mayor was upset or yelled at her regarding her attendance at a Democratic fundraiser.
In one of her more substantive responses, Desantie said: “We [Boughton and I] often had conversations about employees that we would leave the premises to do so. So we periodically would have lunch together … ” She would not say if that happened more than once a week.
Desantie could not recall whether Boughton told her that she was going to be put on paid leave.
As an at-will employee, Desantie was put on paid administrative leave for more than six months. She had “no idea” if she was the only at-will employee ever paid severance by the city of Danbury. She did not leave voluntarily.
Desantie did not respond directly to a question about whether she received a check from a city businessman connected to the mayor. Asked whether she had received pay of close to eight months “in exchange for nothing,” Desantie said, “I think that’s a question you need to ask the city.”
Desantie was represented in her paid administrative leave by civil rights attorney John Williams of New Haven.
Julio Lopez, a former deputy personnel director, testified Boughton told him “the issue with Carol was taken care of, that there was no lawsuit or any other actions to be taken.”
The pending federal lawsuit against Boughton and the city was brought by his former friend of 30 years, Wendy DaCosta. DaCosta served as executive secretary in the mayor’s office for seven years before being fired in 2011 as the result of a sexual harassment claim.
DaCosta’s lawyer, Elizabeth Maurer of Ridgefield, claims the city failed to follow civil service rules, its own policies, the city charter and state and federal laws by treating DaCosta differently than other employees. Maurer said DaCosta was denied family medical leave to obtain substance abuse treatment and did not receive equal application of progressive discipline policies.
Boughton has denied all wrongdoing and commented extensively about DaCosta in news reports. Besides his own deposition, Boughton attended those of Lopez and DaCosta. By Boughton’s account, the city had spent at least $100,000 on the case by September of this year. That does not count city manpower; Alosco-Werner and city lawyer Dianne Rosemark have each attended more than half a dozen depositions.
DaCosta testified that numerous city hall workers told her about allegations of harassment involving Boughton and Desantie, both of whom have denied a complaint was made. DaCosta produced the names of several co-workers during a deposition. One co-worker, DaCosta testified, “said the mayor was spending an awful lot of time behind closed doors with Carol. And he was always in there and really didn’t even know why.” Another co-worker, DaCosta testified, told her, “There was an issue something happened.” Asked if it was a complaint of sexual harassment, DaCosta responded, “Yes. Something to that effect.”
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