Local 860, which represents CSEA members in New Rochelle, has filed a complaint against the City. The complaint was filed with the New York State Public Relations Board (PERB) on January 22, 2013. It alleges that the City engaged in “improper practices” and violated Article 14, section 209-a 1 (d) of NYS Civil Service Law, also known as the Taylor Act, when it hired Suzanne (aka Susanne) Marino as a non-union consultant to fill the position of Section 8 Administrator that was vacated by Eileen O’Rourke. O’Rourke had held the position for 29 years and formally advised the City in September 2012 that she would make her retirement official at the end of that year.
The complaint lodged against the City results from the extraordinary efforts the City went through to get Marino qualified as the new Section 8 Administrator. It started in July 2012, when former Development Commissioner Micheal Freimuth asked the City Council to remove the position of Section 8 Administrator from the union. Unbeknownst to union members, the Council met in executive session to discuss the matter and ultimately passed Resolution No. 113 on July 17, 2012, thereby changing the title of Section 8 Administrator to Executive Director of Section 8. The details of the charges outlined by the union reveal that the Section 8 Administrator position and the newly created Executive Director position are identical; the only thing that changed was the title of the position and the fact that it would no longer be performed by CSEA members. The charges state:
“For the last 30 years, the…duties [of Section 8 Administrator] were performed exclusively by CSEA bargaining unit members….The unilateral action, by the City of New Rochelle, of eliminating a position from the bargaining unit and creating the same position outside of the bargaining unit was done without negotiating with the CSEA and, therefore, is a violation of the Act.”
It appears the City had its sights set on Marino for sometime but she did not qualify as a replacement for O’Rourke because she lived outside of the City. The New Rochelle Civil Service Commission has repeatedly stated that it wanted the position of Section 8 Administrator/Executive Director to go to a New Rochelle resident. At the September 26, 2012 Civil Service Commission meeting, Freimuth asked the Commission to waive the residency requirement. The Commission refused. According to Commissioner Margaret Chadwick, “…it is our job to keep jobs in New Rochelle.” Both Commissioner Reverend Leak and Commission Chairman Domenic Procopio agreed. Then, in a November 13, 2012 memo to the Commission, City Manager Charles Strome asked that the residency requirement be waived “…immediately so that the position could be filled in a timely manner.” In a reply memo dated November 21, 2012, the Commission refused to grant the waiver. Also on November 21, 2012, Joan McCallion, the then Acting Commissioner of Development, advised the City manager’s office that she was “…was ready to make a non-res recommendation…” for O’Rourkes’s replacement.
Therafter, on December 20, 2012, McCallion advised the City Manager that she would not “…go forward with filling the position of Executive Director, Section 8 Program, as advertised by the Civil Service Commission.” Instead, she advised him that “…we will be issuing a consulting services contract to an experienced professional who will fill the position which is being vacated this month. We will expect to go out again to fill the position in 2013.”
Subsequently, on December 21, 2012, Marino, a Purdys, New York resident, was awarded a consultant contract with the City at an hourly rate of $62.00 per hour “…with a not-to-exceed limit of $108,500.00…” for the term of December 27, 2012 to December 26, 2013. Marino was further given the title of Executive Director, occupies the Executive Director’s office, and performs all the duties of Executive Director. According to NYS records, Marino, who at the time of contract was not registered as a business in New York, became Susanne Marino Corporation on January 9, 2013. Her contract was amended by the City on January 14, 2013 to reflect her newly established corporation.
The union retaliated, and allege in their complaint that the City is in further violation of the Taylor Act because it “…has unilaterally contracted out the duties of the Section 8 Administrator, which have been exclusively performed by CSEA bargaining unit members, without negotiating with [the] CSEA….”
The incident is eerily similar to the Assistant Police Commissioner controversy, in which the City attempted to quietly remove the NR police captains from the bargaining unit and reclassify them as non-union Assistant Police Commissioners. The attempt was exposed by Talk of the Sound and ultimately rejected by the City Council in a 5-2 vote.
Rumors in City Hall suggest the Executive Director/Section 8 Administrator position may be put back in the union. It also appears that Marino is attempting to comply with the City’s residency requirements. She advised McCallion that as of February 1, 2013, she is now a New Rochelle resident, and that “…any future correspondence…should be sent to [her] new address.” Sources tell Talk of the Sound that Marino produced a cable TV bill to the Civil Service Commission as proof of her NR residency. The Commission accepted this as valid and allowed her to compete for the position in upcoming weeks. Nonetheless, her corporation address is still listed as 9 Sylvia Way, Purdys, New York, and Westchester County land records show she currently owns property at that address along with an individual named Frank Marino.