The Bristol Blog features news and information about Bristol, Connecticut.
May 21, 2009
Rosenthal suspended by mayor
The city’s economic development director, Jonathan Rosenthal, was suspended without pay for five days recently because he failed to show up for a meeting with the mayor and executives of Theis Precision Steel.
The $96,551-a-year head of the Bristol Development Agency was charged with “neglect of duty” by Mayor Art Ward and kept home last week without pay for missing the April 23 session.
Rosenthal, who lost about $1,800 because of the suspension, is appealing the penalty through his union. He said he could not comment on the issue.
“We did what we had to do,” Ward said. “It’s been handled.”
Rosenthal has been under fire for several years, first by Mayor William Stortz and then by Ward, who was the development director’s chief backer during the Stortz years.
Stortz sought to fire Rosenthal, whom he considered sloppy in his work and too often tardy or uncommunicative, but Ward was among the councilors who refused to go along with the move.
Since taking the mayor’s office in 2002, however, Ward has slapped a one-day working suspension on Rosenthal and issued a blistering memorandum about the development chief for skipping an earlier meeting without permission.
A review of Rosenthal’s personnel file -- which the city opened in compliance with a Freedom of Information request filed by The Bristol Press -- shows a mounting case against the development director with steadily increasing penalties.
Three different mayors -- Ward, Stortz and Gerard Couture -- have placed negative memorandums in the 15-year veteran official’s personnel file, though Couture also put a ringing defense of Rosenthal in the file shortly before Stortz took the city’s helm in 2005.
It is unclear whether other department heads have documented track records of missed meetings and other alleged violations of city policy, but it is certainly true that Rosenthal is not alone in failing to show up for scheduled sessions on occasion. Typically, though, there are no long-term consequences.
Rosenthal, however, has been a political piñata since at least the Couture administration, when he absorbed much criticism for the decision to buy the downtown mall and for the long delay in getting a new industrial park underway on Middle Street.
Couture said in his memo defending Rosenthal that the development director “handled his assignments well and with good humor.”
“I trust that in the future he will be evaluated on his professional performance and not political grounds,” Couture wrote.
With the exception of Couture’s memo, there is nothing in the file to indicate that Rosenthal has ever been evaluated on whether or not he’s done a good job keeping and attracting business to town, which is his chief function in city government.
Former Mayor Frank Nicastro, who was Rosenthal’s boss for a decade, frequently said that Rosenthal performed well in his duties.
Blasted by the mayor
When Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, skipped a Board of Finance meeting in January, Mayor Art Ward got mad.
In a memorandum he wrote to Rosenthal on Feb. 2, Ward said that Rosenthal’s voice mail explaining the absence “was unacceptable.”
“Your flippant and cavalier attitude with regard to the reason for your absence from the meeting was disrespectful and unprofessional,” Ward wrote.
The mayor said that Rosenthal’s job sometimes demands “your time and attention” even when it conflicts with what the development director perceives to be “normal life.”
Ward said he would not tolerate anything less than prompt and respectful reasons for any future missed meetings.
Timeline of Rosenthal’s alleged transgressions
1994 - Jonathan Rosenthal hired as the executive director the Bristol Development Authority
Aug. 2004 - Mayor Gerard Couture cites Rosenthal for being late to a project meeting.
“You are often late for work and late for meetings,” Couture wrote, adding that Rosenthal’s tardiness “is a poor reflection on both you and the city.”
Oct. 2007 - Mayor William Stortz said in a memorandum that Rosenthal missed a scheduled meeting with visitors from China.
“This was a definite insult to not only my office, who was hosting our visitors, but more importantly to our visitors themselves,” Stortz wrote.
He issued Rosenthal “an oral reprimand.”
Oct. 2007 - In another memo, Stortz gave Rosenthal a written reprimand for leaving a Post-It note on the mayor’s secretary’s computer to say he would like the following day off “so that I can do some yard work.”
Rosenthal took the day off without seeking approval or an answer to the note, Stortz charged.
March 2008 - Ward issued a one-day working suspension to Rosenthal.
A March 2008 memo from Ward
In a March 26, memorandum from Mayor Art Ward to Rosenthal, the mayor complained that Rosenthal set up a meeting with Steve Rejniak six days earlier and then failed to show up for it. Here is an excerpt from the memo:
“I attended the meeting and when you did not show up, I contacted my assistant, Mary Suchopar, and directed her to contact your office to find out where you were. Shortly after her call to your office, you came to the mayor’s office, appearing flush in your face and you began to yell at Mary.
“You were screaming loudly, pointing at a piece of paper you were holding and also pointing at Mary.
“A summary of your comments to her were that ‘if you didn’t know about these appointments and they’re not in your book, then how are you supposed to be there.’
“Another city employee was a witness to this incident.
“As for your non-attendance at the meeting with Mr. Rejniak, such neglect of duty is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“As a representative of the city whose primary function is economic development, it is imperative that you represent the city in a positive and professional manner.
“Certainly, your actions did not favorably represent your city or further our economic development relations in the community.
“As for your interaction with Mary, your behavior was completely unacceptable. Your actions were rude, ill-mannered, disrespectful to her and to me, and will not be tolerated.
“As a result of your neglect of duty and for your inappropriate behavior toward Mary, you are being issued a one-day working suspension.
“Be advised that further infractions will result in more severe disciplinary action which can include an unpaid suspension or termination of employment.”
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