Selectmen reinstate building inspector

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BEACON FALLS — The Board of Selectmen last week voted to reinstate James Tucciarone as the town’s building inspector following an investigation into how he accounted for hours worked on his time cards.

Tucciarone was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 30, and the town subsequently hired the Milford-based law firm Bircher, Moses, and Devlin to investigate the matter. The board discussed the report in open session during a special meeting Oct. 12. (A copy of the report is available through this link tucciarone-investigation-report)

Along with his duties as building inspector, Tucciarone was hired as the town’s interim zoning enforcement officer in June 2015. The positions are two, separate 20-hour part-time jobs.

According to the report, there was an apparent overlap of hours during Tucciarone’s duties as building inspector and interim zoning enforcement officer on his time cards.

Tucciarone’s time cards showed that from June 2015 to February 2016 he worked four days a week from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. as building inspector and from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and then 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as the ZEO, the report states.

During that time, there was an overlap of two hours a day, or eight hours a week, where he was double billing the town, the report states.

The report also states that from Feb. 23 to Sept. 2, Tucciarone’s time sheets reflect 6 to 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. four days a week as ZEO and 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. four days a week as the building inspector.

The total is 32 hours worked and he was paid for 40 hours, the report states. The hours that overlap are 7 to 8 a.m., and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

In addition, Tucciarone also marked time worked on holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, when the Town Hall was closed, the report states.

At the time he was placed on administrative leave, Tucciarone was making $27 an hour as building inspector and $28.97 an hour as ZEO, according to the report. After reviewing the time sheets, Thomas Broesler, the town’s finance director, estimated that the town overpaid Tucciarone by $17,699.52, the report states.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said he didn’t see how Tucciarone could be expected to be paid twice for the hours he worked.

“I find it difficult to accept that a reasonable person would think that you could be paid double hours to do the same work of two positions at the same time,” Bielik said. “Double counting the hours worked is not credible to me. It’s impossible to do two jobs at the same time and get credit for doing both of those jobs at the same time.”

Attorney Thomas Bucci, who represented Tucciarone, said Tucciarone was under the impression that he would be expected to perform both duties at the same time.

“The confusion comes in as to not spelling out what duties, what hours, what the responsibilities would be. We know the zoning office and building office are open at the same hours. Is he to take off one hat and put on another or tell people when they come into the zoning office, ‘We’re closed now because I am acting as building inspector,’” Bucci said.

Bucci said Tucciarone had expected to be paid for 20 hours a week for both positions. Bucci said, since the previous zoning officer worked 20 hours a week, it would make sense Tucciarone worked 20 hours in each position.

“His understanding, and yes there may have been a miscommunication, is that he would be paid 20 hours a week as the zoning official. That’s credible because your prior zoning officer was paid for 20 hours and worked 20 hours a week. To think there would be less work just because Mr. Tucciarone was doing it would be a bit naïve,” Bucci said.

Bielik said working 20 hours in each position would mean Tucciarone worked a total of 40 hours a week.

“Yet the record shows he was not documenting 40 hours of work per week,” Bielik said.

Bucci said Tucciarone had tried to separate the hours of the two jobs, but was told by Erin Schwartz, an administrative assistant who is responsible for inputting the time sheets, that he was being paid for 20 hours for each job so he should simply list the hours without separating it out.

“The employee talked to her and said, ‘This is my understanding.’ And that is where it ended. There’s no wrongdoing here. There’s no effort to conceal things,” Bucci said.

In the report, Schwarz states the issue of Tucciarone’s time cards came up when he began both jobs. She said she brought it up to Broesler but he told her to speak with Tucciarone about the issue, according to the report.

When Schwarz brought the issue to Tucciarone he stated that he was to be paid 20 hours for both positions for a total of 40 hours a week, according to the report. Schwarz believed that Tucciarone was having difficulties doing the time sheets because he could not separate the roles, the report states.  However, she didn’t share this opinion due to her previously bringing the issue to Broesler and speaking with Tucciarone, the report states.

“Why was no one signing off on time sheets? Who is the supervisor for the building inspector,” Selectman Michael Krenesky asked.

Bielik said no one currently oversees the building department and that, while he is ultimately the supervisor of all town employees, he has never signed off on any time cards.

If the record keeping was such a problem, Bucci asked why no one pursued the issue before more than a year had passed.

Bielik said he wasn’t sure.

“There was a failing in the system,” Bielik said.

In a subsequent interview, Bielik said the town is looking to install biometric scanners in order to prevent such a problem from reoccurring.

In the report, Board of Finance Chairman Joe Rodorigo states he brought the matter forward after receiving a complaint concerning the building department. In response to the complaint, Rodorigo asked to see Tucciarone’s time cards, according to the report.

“This resulted in Mr. Rodorigo going to the First Selectman and having an audit of the payroll timesheets conducted,” the report states.

Rodorigo was the subject of an ethics complaint filed by resident Doug Bousquet five days before Tucciarone was placed on leave. In the complaint, Bousquet stated that Rodorigo, on several occasions, sat at Tucciarone’s desk, used his computer, and went through files without permission.

The Ethics Board subsequently ruled that the complaint didn’t amount to an ethics violation under the town’s ordinance. Rodorigo has said he categorically denies all the accusations.

Selectman Peter Betkoski asked who brought the complaint forward about Tucciarone to Rodorigo.

“Someone complained. For what reason? That name should be brought up,” Betkoski said.

The report doesn’t state who made the complaint.

Bielik said he wasn’t sure who made the complaint and didn’t think it was relevant to the issue.

Tucciarone is expected to resume his duties as building inspector on Oct. 25. He will remain on administrative leave until then.

Tucciarone will no longer serve as the ZEO. The town is currently in the process of hiring someone to fill that position. According to Bielik, the town hopes to fill the position by the end of the month.

Following the meeting last week, Tucciarone directed questions on the board’s decision to Bucci.

“He’s grateful for the action of the board. He’s grateful for the selectmen having an open mind and being fair and reasonable concerning this issue,” Bucci said.