Union employees working for the Warren Housing Authority have taken a vote of “no confidence” in the authority’s management and have asked the Warren Town Solicitor to intercede, saying they “no longer feel safe in their workplace” after allegedly being subjected to threats and intimidation by two members of the authority’s board of commissioners.
The vote came late last month, after members of the authority’s maintenance staff said they were threatened, harassed and intimidated by board chairman Frank Mansi and member William “Billy” Ryan.
It’s a charge that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Mansi both vehemently deny.
“It’s totally baseless,” Mr. Ryan said Friday. “I don’t know what that’s all about, but there’s nothing to it.”
“That’s just from a disgruntled employee,” Mr. Mansi added.
According to a letter sent on July 24 to solicitor Anthony DeSisto by Joseph Murphy, business manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 127, the trouble began on July 17, one day after three other commissioners sent the Warren Town Council and Warren Town Manager a letter outlining management and business problems within the authority.
The union employees say they were allegedly verbally harassed and threatened by Mr. Mansi and Mr. Ryan, who attempted to bait at least one of them into an altercation, Mr. Murphy wrote.
According to the letter, Mr. Mansi and Mr. Ryan were on authority property and approached the employees “in a bullying and intimidating manner, designed to bait and elicit a negative response (and) encroached on the personal space of these employees, threatening their jobs while pointing their fingers in the employees’ faces.”
At one point, Mr. Murphy alleged, Mr. Ryan dared an employee to strike him.
“You know what I want you to do,” he was alleged to have said. “I want you to (expletive) punch me.”
In addition to those allegations, Mr. Murphy wrote that the working environment at the authority has deteriorated over the course of 2014. Executive director Carol Anne Costa, he wrote, “has become accusatory and belittling” toward the union members.
On Friday, Ms. Costa said she is taking Mr. Murphy’s allegations seriously, and is corresponding with the authority’s legal counsel to investigate the union’s claims. Of particular concern, she said, is having a neutral arbiter step in to aid in the investigation, “so it’s not being done by me.”
“We’re certainly going to look into this. I want this to be done in the most open manner possible,” she said, adding that authority attorney William Conley has not finalized the details of how the investigation will be run.
Also on Friday, Mr. Murphy said he has not yet heard anything in response to his letter to Mr. DeSisto.
“Not a phone call, not a letter, nothing,” he said. “Nothing’s happened.”