Impending layoffs of more than 40 city employees have shortened tempers in City Hall, resulting in an incident Wednesday afternoon in which one city official alleges he was hit in the back of the head with the layoff notices for his department.
Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said Thursday that City Attorney Joseph Scala flung a large envelope full of letters to 28 soon-to-be terminated employees at him in City Hall, hitting him in the back, neck and head.
The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the top of the stairs outside the mayor’s office as Scirocco walked away from Scala after disagreeing with the city attorney over who should deliver the layoff letters.
Scala said he didn’t mean to hit Scirocco with the papers but rather to throw the envelope at the commissioner’s feet so he would pick it up. Scala apologized immediately afterward.
The affected employees already knew they were going to be laid off, but the letters are the official notification.
Scirocco said Thursday he didn’t feel comfortable handing out the letters because employees had legal questions that he couldn’t answer.
“I felt that this was a human resources issue,” Scirocco said. “He’s the acting human resource person for the city.
“I didn’t know what their rights were as far as the layoffs were concerned,” he said.
Scala said he has been serving “in a limited and interim capacity only” to help with legal issues related to personnel matters since the departure several months ago of Marcy Brydges.
He said there is no legal issue with distributing the letters.
“No one elected me to any office,” he said in a statement. “Commissioner Scirocco was elected to perform the duties of his office and ... tried to pass those duties off on me.”
Scala characterized Scirocco as refusing to talk about the issue when he returned the envelope, “calling over his shoulder as he left the office” and then “running away.”
Scala pursued Scirocco into the hallway to give the envelope back to him.
The two men exchanged words after the incident.
The hallway incident occurred after a round of “hot potato” with the layoff notices:
Scirocco said he delivered them to Scala’s secretary, Nancy Woodworth, at 4:15 p.m., and Woodworth brought them back down shortly afterward with a message from Scala that it was Scirocco’s responsibility.
Then Scirocco brought the envelope back upstairs, thrust it at Scala and left.
On Thursday, Scirocco got the letters back and started giving them to employees, a process that took two hours for four employees so far.
Scala said he understands why the issue is fraught with emotion.
“Many years ago, I was actually involved in a corporate downsizing at this time of year, so I have some idea of what an awful experience this is, especially during the holidays.”