Greenfield City Council asks mayor to resign

Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2018 11:59:01 PM

GREENFIELD — City Council has asked for Mayor William Martin to resign after accusations of bullying and intimidation surrounding the termination of Finance Director Elizabeth Braccia have surfaced.

City Council took a vote of no confidence in Mayor William Martin Thursday night after an emergency meeting to discuss the abrupt departure of Braccia from the city staff. The resolution called for Martin to resign as mayor.

Braccia was let go from the city earlier this week, though the reason is still unclear.

The council voted for the no-confidence resolution after meeting in executive session for over an hour with Martin, Braccia, Braccia’s attorney Nate Olin, city attorney Gordon Quinn and others.

The resolution of no confidence claimed, among other allegations, that Martin “damaged and diminished employee morale” because of “persistent and demeaning behavior,” has shown “very poor judgment in relation to many personnel decisions of both hiring and firing” and had “taken the extraordinary step to dismiss” Braccia.

The council also voted for a resolution to support Braccia’s reinstatement as finance director.

The resolutions are non-binding but were viewed as statements by the council.

Both resolutions were unanimously approved by the councilors present. Councilors Ashli Stempel, Isaac Mass, Wand Pyfrom and Penny Ricketts were absent, though Stempel had a letter read for the record condemning Martin’s actions against Braccia and other employees.

Stempel’s letter said Martin has “failed to lead” and caused anxiety among city employees.

“Bullying and threats will no longer be tolerated in Greenfield,” a portion of the letter read.

“We have a responsibility to take control of the situation by force,” Stempel said in the letter.

Several members of the council said even after the executive session they remained uncertain about why Braccia was ousted as finance director.

“It says to us we found no evidence in executive session that justifies in any way the termination of this employee,” Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud said.

“I need to see just cause for termination and I just don’t see it,” Councilor Douglas Mayo said.

Councilor Daniel Leonovich said after the executive session he expected a more complete explanation behind Braccia’s dismissal and instead left more confused.

“Rationale has to win the day and it just wasn’t present. Nothing that I saw that would have prevented me from agreeing with this resolution,” he said.

Martin claimed Braccia’s contract with the city was not renewed earlier this week. She was with the city since 2011. Braccia experienced some tumult, including questions of improper financial management of Greenfield Community, Energy and Technology by then-General Manager Daniel Kelley.

Braccia made light of the alleged financial mismanagement, which eventually led to Kelley being terminated in September 2017. She testified at a hearing about the issue held by City Council last year.

Earlier this year, Kelley filed a lawsuit against the city for $100,000 plus attorney’s fees for the incident.

During the meeting Thursday, Braccia — who received a standing ovation when she walked to the microphone to speak — was asked about the issue with GCET, including whether she was apologized to after what happened, to which she said no.

When Renaud asked her why she continued to work with the city after this, Braccia said, “I believe in Greenfield.”

Her comment received another ovation from the audience.

Martin has not specified why Braccia was let go from the city, though said he must address written complaints made by employees. He also said he felt Braccia was not the best person for finance director when asked by Councilor Brickett Allis.

Braccia’s attorney Nate Olin said after the meeting that Martin’s actions were “retaliatory and discriminatory,” and viewed Braccia’s termination as “illegal.”

When asked to elaborate, Olin said he could not specify at the time. He did say though, that they were going to “challenge the termination vigorously.”

Martin left the meeting before he could be asked for comment.

Public comment

During the meeting, the public was allowed to comment, which drew several current and former employees of the city.

Speakers accused Martin of bullying and intimidation, with some comments receiving applause from the crowd.

Greenfield Firefighter Union leader Peter McGuyver called the mayor a “spiteful bully” when recounting him being passed over by Martin for a permanent lieutenant position with the city’s fire department.

He said he was qualified for the position, but was overlooked by Martin as retaliation for opposing him as part of the union and for supporting his mayoral opponent Patty Morey Walker. He said what is happening to Braccia is another form of retaliation.

Human Rights Commission member Sarah Ahern said she felt intimidated by Martin following a City Council meeting June 10. According to Ahern, Martin had allegedly waited for the room to be cleared before approaching her to address an issue related to procedure.

“The fact that he waited until the room cleared and the manner that he approached me … made me feel really uncomfortable,” she said.

Former health inspector Jami Kolosewicz, who left for a position in Orange two weeks ago, said the issue of bullying is from more than just the mayor’s office.

“Bullying is happening from everywhere: from certain council members, from the mayor,” she said. “Find out how much staff has left the town since he started,” she added, referring to Martin.

After the meeting, Kolosewicz said she didn’t leave her job with the city “because I wanted to. I did because it was enough.”

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