By BOB BURGESS
WAKEFIELD — Embattled Town Clerk Mary K Galvin, who hasn’t worked since she collapsed in her office last April due to certain stressors she said she felt on the job, will retire at the end of June.
In a short Item Forum letter today, Galvin thanks all those who have supported her as she served her hometown over the past 32 years.
Her retirement announcement should bring to a close charges and countercharges swirling around Galvin, who has been the elected town clerk since 2003. Before that, she was appointed to fill out the term of the late Virginia Zingarelli, Galvin’s predecessor. Galvin also had been a member of the selectmen’s office staff and the assistant to the town administrator and executive secretary position during her 32 years of municipal service.
But the goodwill she built up with the public over that time could not protect her when other officials began wondering aloud why Galvin was being paid for not showing up for work. The first published salvo came from a well-respected corner of local government: Finance Committee Vice Chairman Dan Sherman. He urged Galvin in an Item Forum letter in January to either return to her duties as town clerk or retire. Sherman, in fact, told his Finance Committee colleagues at a recent meeting that he planned to recommend cutting the town clerk’s roughly $77,000 annual salary request from the fiscal year 2016 budget if Galvin refused to follow one piece of his advice or the other.
For her part, Galvin maintained her doctors told her that returning to work in what she said today was an “abusive” situation would be bad for her health.
Galvin has expressed particular concern about her work relationship with Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio. Maio sent a memo to Galvin that she has described as “nasty” and the reason for her sudden attack back on April 8, 2014. She spent the next six days in Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. Her doctors initially thought she had a heart attack or a stroke. As it turned out, Galvin was diagnosed with emotional stress brought on by certain pressures she said she felt as she did her job as town clerk.
The Maio memo, apparently written with the selectmen’s blessing, deals with a reported “history of grievances” filed by “nearly every (member of the town clerk’s clerical staff) with the common theme of hostile work environment.” Galvin maintains that all of the grievances were either dismissed as unwarranted by the town or dismissed by the employee who filed the grievance.
At no time did a grievance ever make it to the arbitration stage, Galvin has emphasized at least twice over the last month. The elected town clerk also wanted to make clear the fact that grievances are filed regularly against any department head, not just her.
The memo from Maio talks about some undisclosed, latest grievance filed against Galvin that is “particularly upsetting as the subject matter could be construed as infringing on the constitutional rights of an employee. Therefore the Board of Selectmen has asked me to convey to you the following:
“1) The Board will not authorize the expenditure of any Town resources, including the services of Town Counsel (Thomas) Mullen, to answer and/defend the most recent grievance, or future grievances of the same tenor. This means that should any grievance require to be defended you personally will bear the cost of same.
“2) The Board is presenting a warrant article at the May (2014) Town Meeting to make the Town Clerk’s position appointed rather than elected.
“3) You are hereby referred to the administrative program at the Employee Assistance Group.
“Feel free to contact me if you have any questions as the Selectmen will not discuss this matter with you directly,” Maio concludes.
The selectmen came to Maio’s defense after Galvin’s charges of nastiness and bullying surfaced.
Earlier this week, Mullen took the unusual step of calling out Galvin on her claims that grievances filed against her never amounted to anything serious. He also took issue with some of her defenders, who have made various claims in letters to this newspaper.
On Monday, Mullen addressed two claims. One was that the Town Clerk’s Office was no more troubled by grievances than other department and that all of those grievances were resolved favorably to the town.
“I wish that were the case,” Mullen said. He pointed out that since 2005, four employees had brought grievances against Galvin. Another employee brought a discrimination claim against Galvin to the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination claiming “denial of reasonable accommodations of a handicap and retaliatory discipline.”
That complaint was from a woman who worked for 16 years as a town census taker. Her disability is anxiety disorder/claustrophobia.
The woman’s complaint reads that her supervisor as she worked from January to May was Galvin. “During the summer hiatus, I discovered that my work site had been changed form an open area to one facing a wall. To told Ms. Galvin that I could not work in such an enclosed area. I then provided her with a letter in October 2004 from my therapist attesting to my need for a more open space. Ms. Galvin informed me that my work site would be changed. It was not.
“When a week passed without my work site being changed, I went to (then) Town Administrator Thomas Butler and informed him of my disabilities and my work situation. I provided him with the letter from my therapist. He said that he would speak with Ms. Galvin.
“I called Mr. Butler on or about November 1, 2004. He informed me that my work site would revert to my old work station.
“When I went to the office in early November 2004, my work site hadn’t changed. When I asked Ms. Galvin why it hadn’t changed, she said she ‘and the girls’ had decided that it was a traffic issue and she wouldn’t change my seat back.
“On January 29, 2005 I met Ms. Galvin and asked her when we were getting called back. She said that she had re-hired the other women one week ago. When I asked about myself, she told me that I wasn’t going to be rehired,” the complaint continues.
Mullen told the selectmen Monday that it cost the town $15,000 to settle that claim.
Town counsel explained two other grievances, resolved with letters from Galvin that Mullen characterized as “letters of apology.” Yet another grievance was resolved by reversing a policy the town clerk had to forbid employees from putting up lawn signs on their property on their own time.
“This,” Mullen said, “is not a record of peaceful labor relations, nor is it a record of success in litigation and it was the reason that this board resolved not to spend public money defending any more grievances that were brought against the Town Clerk’s Office.
The second allegation that Mullen addressed this week was a suggestion made in a letter to the Item Forum that anyone who filed a grievance must have been an appointee of Maio’s who was acting at his behest to undermine the town clerk.
“That’s no just bizarrely conspiratorial,” Mullen said. “It’s also completely untrue.”
Mullen said he is in the process of writing a formal memorandum on the Galvin matter and promised further details.
Galvin e-mailed her letter announcing her retirement this morning before 9. She then sent another letter, which appears below:
“I would like to respond to last night’s (Item) article from Tom Mullen in defense of Steve Maio as follows:
“In January 2011 when I was running for re-election, Steve Maio told me that if I did not run, the two full time employees in my office would run against each other for Town Clerk. That statement sums up the problems in my office from day one. I am the only dept. head that I know of who has employees vying for my job. During that election, Rosemary Morgan ran a write in campaign against me and received 24 votes. She is also the current President of the Town Hall clerical union that of course supports Mr. Maio. Mr. Maio has always worked with Rose Morgan against me, and never came to me for my side of her issues. I also hear that they adjourned to a Selectman’s house. It goes against all of the rules of management to work with the clerical help and exclude the supervisor which is what happened. Throughout all of this nightmare, he never came to me for my response.
“After many corrections/clarifications in this paper, the Town still persists with the abuse I have suffered by continuing this grievance issue. The fact is that no other dept. head has employees vying for their job, and filing grievances for trivial reasons by calling a union meeting, and gaining the members’ support of their supposed issues, I have never been able to respond to these allegations. Then the employee either cancels the grievance, or the town dismisses it. Once again, I have never gone to Arbitration.
“Regarding the MCAD case filed by a ‘casual’ employee and not a regular town employee which happened many years ago, the issue was that I had changed the employee’s workstation to one within arm’s length of a window facing the common. She shocked me when she refused to sit there, and claimed that I caused her anxiety and claustrophobia. I asked her to try it for a few days, but she refused. She filed a complaint with the MCAD citing handicapped issues. The insurance lawyer for the town met me at the hearing and told me that he was very experienced in these hearings and that the handicapped usually win. I responded that I had pictures of the workstation and that there was no justifiable cause for this complaint. The lawyer responded that if we did not settle, the ‘casual’ (seasonal) employee would get her job back and the town would have to pay back wages. The Arbitrator told me that the Asst. Town Clerk had testified for the complainant after telling me many times that if I took her back she would take a fall and file for Workers Comp. The insurance lawyer also explained that insurance would cover 2/3 of the claim and the town would have to pay 1/3. I called Tom Butler, who told me to settle on the condition that the complainant could never work for the Town of Wakefield again.
“Regarding the discrimination claim from an employee who received a call from Brian McGrail during working hours about her placing a lawn sign for the garage issue, I have always asked my employees who handle absentee ballots to refrain from publicly showing any support, I never told them that they could not place a sign or become otherwise involved. After making a big deal about Constitutional issues, the town threw out the claim.
“When Rose Morgan worked for the Retirement Board, they were forced to hire a court stenographer, and now she is taking town meeting minutes?
“Again, I want to thank the wonderful people of Wakefield who have supported me these past 32 years. I have always wanted to return to my job, but it is not possible under these circumstances.
“If all the town can say negatively about me is to continue to bring up these ridiculous grievances, I must say that I always did my best,” Galvin wrote.