By Josh LaBella
While the start of Monday’s City Council meeting saw the body commending youth cheerleading groups who placed nationally, the public session saw three different union representatives calling for an apology for what they saw as an incindiary post made on Facebook by a council member.
The council opened their meeting by awarding the coaches and cheerleaders of the Midget Football League’s West Haven Sea Hawks junior varsity and pee wee cheerleading teams each with a citation recognizing the team’s national ranking. The teams competed in the Pop Warner National Cheer and Dance Championships during Dec. 1-8 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
Council Chairman Ron Quagliani told the thanked the teams for continuing to represent West Haven at the national level.
“You’re kind of our UConn women in a West Haven-type dynasty,” said Quagliani. “You are our ambassadors to the greater community when you are competing at regionals, when you are competing nationally. You are representing West Haven and we are very proud of that.”
The next part of the meeting saw Corporation Council Lee Tiernan going over the legal protections a councilor has while serving in their role and the ones which fall outside of those bounds. The presentation was seemingly in response to a comment made by Seventh District Councilwoman Portia Bias on Facebook.
In the post, which the councilwoman shared to the Facebook page West Haven –The Way It Is, she referenced a document the mayor had given the council and audience at the previous council meeting, which showed payouts at termination.
“I’ve also been following Councilwoman Morrissey’s investigating city personnel buyback schemes, which proved well worth her efforts when I read the spreadsheet handed out by Mayor Rossi showing clearly those on the take and many others not,” said Bias, who attached a photo of the document. “It is wrong the city asks its residents to bail out its illegally paid out $1.387 million…”
As a result of the post, three union representatives came to the meeting to give statements during public session. Eric Peterson, who represented Local 681, said the post was “way out of line.”
“As the president of Local 681 I am making a very clear statement that those employees upon retirement, layoff, resignation or death were entitled to payments they received based on years of service and contract language,” said Peterson. “This individual’s statements indicating that what the employees received were, in fact, illegal payouts is completely (baseless) and condemning to say the least.”
Peterson went on to request an apology from Bias, whom he did not name. He said the statement was demeaning to those who chose to serve the public in West Haven.
Joseph DeGrand, an Allingtown firefighter and Local 1198’s union representative, said the payouts were part of their collective bargaining agreement.
“I find it extremely concerning that members of the council would openly declare that employees of the city of West Haven were involved in a buyback scheme or that public servants were on the take,” said DeGrand. “The motives of such an individual could not possibly be to serve the public, but rather to incite more hatred, resentment and conspiracy at a time when the community has had enough.”
Bias offered no apology during the meeting or on Facebook as of press time.