Water dept. employee firing ruled correct

By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — The city took proper action by dismissing a Department of Public Services employee last year after he allegedly set up his home water meter to duck payments for water use.

An arbitrator in his ruling last week notified city officials that Charles Taylor II, who along with other department workers was part of a “concerted effort” to avoid accurate readings of water meters.

The case is the first from among seven fired city workers who sought arbitration; the other six await rulings.

The Taylor ruling also says that because such conduct broke the trust relationship between the city and the employee, discharge was the “required penalty.”

“We expected that result and support that result,” City Manager Steve Duchane said. “But we take no great joy in that kind of thing.

“It’s just part of business and you move on.”

City officials began an investigation last year after discovering large water losses and noticeable differences in amounts charged on the bills of some residents. It eventually found that many addresses with very low water bills belonged to city employees, all of whom worked in the DPS, which encompasses the Water Department. Some of the bills were as low as $5 to $10; quarterly bills for other residents averaged over $100.

Besides Taylor, John Clemente, Brian Dailey, Brian Depalma, Glen Ray, Dennis Stol and John Werksma Jr. also were dismissed. Ronald Depalma Jr., who formerly headed the Water Department, quit prior to the investigation.

Three other workers were suspended without pay in connection with the incidents.

In published reports, Taylor cited a minimal number of family showers and not filling up an outdoor pool as reasons for his low usage.

Arbitrator Mark Glazer said Taylor’s meter bore scratch marks, and that its security pin apparently had been removed and replaced.

Duchane said though all seven cases are independent that officials think the facts are similar in all of them, noting that all of the employees were terminated. He added that it’s extremely difficult to tell how much water was stolen over exactly what time period, but that officials have speculated that it could be in the hundreds of thousands.

“We may never know,” Duchane said.