Two former town employees, Garo Garabedian and Ennio De Vita, have filed age discrimination complaints against the town. I’m not familiar with Mr. Da Vita but Garabedian was a top notch fellow who always exuded a calm confidence and excellent grasp of the facts when I heard him speak at various public meetings and zoning hearings over the years. I was astonished that Tesei fired him but even more appalled at they way he did it, ordering the man escorted out of Town Hall under guard as though he were some criminal to be feared.
Perhaps Garabedian would have complained anyway – he’s 64 and surely felt wronged, but if Tesei had done the honorable thing, given him a public farewell and perhaps a ceremony to thank him for his decades of service to the town, the ill-will could have been mitigated. As it is, the man is pissed and coming back at us. Even as a taxpayer who will end up footing the bill for any award he’s granted, I say good for him.
First Selectman Peter Tesei defends his decision to fire Garo Garabedian and other employees in today’s Greenwich Time. I can’t argue with the decision – Tesei has a duty to balance our budget and he did what he thought wisest, but the way we fired these people: police escorts out of Town Hall, confiscation of cell phones, no notice – was awful. It’s as though we discovered thieves in the building instead of 28-year and 35-year public servants who’ve done an excellent job almost forever. It’s too late to undo that nasty bit of business but some kind of ceremony honoring these men for their service would seem appropriate – if they’d attend. We owe them that much.
I don’t know the names of many of the town employees fired Thursday but the one I do is that of our Traffic Engineer, Garo Garabedian:
Hardest hit of any department was public works, where eight workers were laid off, including, to the shock of many, Garo Garabedian, the town’s traffic engineer.
A 28-year town employee who oversaw a variety of activities, from the installation of speed-limit signs to the design of a multitude of traffic circles, Garabedian gazed stoically at his co-workers after learning his fate and shook several of their hands. A colleague had to drive Garabedian home because the car he came to work in was owned by the town.
Garabedian, who earned an annual salary of about $106,000, according to his union, declined to comment about his status. His union representative was quick to criticize the handling of the situation, however.
“He’s waltzed out the door with no notice, just told, ‘Pack up. Give us your keys. Thank you very much.’ I just think it could have been handled more compassionately,” said Lynn Mason, business manager of Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 136.
Although I never met the man personally I have long admired him from afar, first when I was a young lawyer sitting through interminable P&Z hearings, later as an RTM member and when I did duty on the Riverside Association. The man was a real pro: he knew what he was talking about, he had sensible solutions to citizens’ concerns and he showed the same class and quiet stoicism while listening to the ranting of over-wrought residents as he did Thursday when he was shoved out the door. Whatever the merits of our budget cutting, and I do support First Selectman Tesei’s efforts, I think we’re paying a terrible price to save the $100 grand of Mr. Garabedian’s salary. We’re going to miss him sooner, as well as later.