Everyone likes Betty French. No really, even the people who are now giving her a hard time all admit to me at least privately, they like her and she does a good job. So what went so terrible wrong?
Thirty year DPW commissioner Tom McTygue was a pioneer in this city in hiring women and minorities. Eddie Robinson a burly black man from the south was the first black supervisor in the city. To this day while there has never been a black fireman and only two black cops. The DPW department under McTygue, hired many black and Hispanic employees.
McTygue also went out of his way to hire qualified women. I remember in the eighties we had a female foreman on the flower crew although her name escapes me. The city had female dispatchers, office staff and more than a few women laborers and drivers. Yes McTygue was ahead of his time.
One of the women McTygue hired was Betty French. Betty was a hardworking and reliable employee who excelled in every task she was given.
Congress Park was the jewel of Saratoga Springs. Unfortunately in the sixties and seventies during a period of stagnation in the city the park fell into decay. Breathtaking in its beauty, McTygue lovely restored it to a point its beauty eclipsed even its former splendor.
During the last years of McTygue’s tenure in office he entrusted the upkeep of Congress Park to Betty French. Not only the physical upkeep of the park but all the bookings of the Canfield Casino. Betty proved that she was just as adept dealing with anxious brides as she was behind the wheel of a snow plow.
Betty was happy, the park was happy and most of all the people were happy.
Then after a particularly bitter election even by Saratoga standards, Tom McTygue was ousted by Anthony "Skip" Scirocco. Though popular after years of being a reasonably competent dog catcher he was in over his head managing the large and complicated department.
And there were scores to settle after the bitter election. French was seen as a McTygue loyalist. While many McTygue hires had turned on him and supported Scirocco, Betty remained neutral, kept her head down and continued to do an excellent job…
In time Scirocco began to harass French. Her staff was cut; she was assigned less than stellar laborers all as a pretext to discipline her. As an hourly worker she was denied overtime. French began to file grievances.
Scirocco created the position of reservation coordinator to strip French of her duties and planned to hire Mary Lou Whitney's daughter Heather Mabee starting on2/6/12.The position had been defunded by the then republican dominated city council in 2011. Skip never got the position.Yes everybody did like Betty French.
Scirocco was undeterred and the petty harassment continued. French continued to file grievances till one day after filing a grievance in the morning she was unceremoniously transferred to a black hole in the middle of the male dominated city garage just hours later.
This black hole is the DPW tool room where she has been assigned the menial task of handing out tools and counting garbage bags in a windowless dirty closet wedged between the toilets and the truck bay.
This final indignity was enough. French filed a grievance with PERB saying she was being punished for speaking out against her treatment. Under oath at a Perb hearing in Albany, Scirocco claimed “he was unaware of any grievance” He added her placement in the black hole of Division St wasn’t a demotion at all.
Again we are dealing with the city’s labor attorney, Mark McCarthy of Harris Beach. McCarthy seems to have a particular loathing of uppity female employees. In this case the decision on the fairness of these actions is now in the hands of an administrative law judge.
While the cost of this action is funded by French’s, union CSEA she has also hired a private attorney in a parallel action alleging gender discrimination. She has hired the same law firm as Accounts whistleblower Mary Zlotnick, Gleason, Dunn, Walsh and O’Shea. In this case the young, talented Sarah Burger is representing French.
This time just as in the case of Mary Zlotnick, the legal bills are on the victims dime.
So how is Betty holding up? Well it’s taken a toll, anxiety, hostile work environment, filthy working conditions. All of this done to a model worker who had the misfortune to be on the wrong side of the political fence. I don’t have the costs so far of these actions as neither is near a resolution but I will.
Again a reminder that this is a soft plea for funds. So if you can give something its appreciated. I will continue to interview the homeless this weekend and am working on a lot more.
Saratoga in Decline
We never sleep
Because politics suck