A former dispatcher filed a claim against Schenectady County alleging a hostile work environment at the Unified Communications Center and is seeking $500,000 in damages.
David Gallup of Scotia has retained attorney Kevin Luibrand after being suspended from the dispatch center in October due to what he claims was retaliation for reporting co-workers mocking a disabled colleague.
After reporting the incident to his supervisor, Daniel Aniolek, Gallup says Aniolek stated to employees at the UCC that Gallup intended to file a lawsuit against the county for a hostile work environment, which he says was false at the time.
“False and defamatory statements were made by county employees by and in retaliation for claimant having reported the derogatory comments made about the disabled co-employee and the supervisor’s claim of client reporting a hostile work environment,” the claim states.
Colleague James DeLorenzo falsely said that Gallup, upon hearing of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that morning, stated “how funny it was if it happened here,” according to the claim.
The notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, also says another colleague, Eric Wagner, falsely said that Gallup “commented that he was hoping that it has occurred here.”
Luibrand said Gallup did not make those statements, which ultimately led to his suspension and a psychiatric evaluation. Gallup was suspended for about three months.
“There wasn’t anything inappropriate said that would justify that, particularly workforce violence,” Luibrand said regarding Gallup’s suspension.
“Both said statements were false when made and known to be false by said employees when made and were as retaliation for claimant having reported a hostile work environment and the belief by his co-workers that he was filing a hostile work environment lawsuit,” the claim says.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said two complaints, one by a colleague and another by a supervisor, were filed against Gallup on Oct. 2 alleging Gallup “was threatening to shoot everybody.”
“Workers stated Mr. Gallup’s comments made them feel uncomfortable,” he said. “I don’t think you can ever be too careful. Because of that Mr. Gallup was placed on involuntary leave and the county manager requested a psychiatric evaluation.”
Gardner said the evaluation found that Gallup did not have any mental health issues and that he was offered to return to work on Dec. 8.
Gallup has not returned to the UCC but is still employed by the county, Luibrand said. Before the UCC, Gallup was a dispatcher in Glenville for about 20 years.
Gardner said he believes there is “no basis” for the notice of claim against the county and that “we were acting in good faith.”
The claim filed by Gallup says in addition to the suspension and psychiatric evaluation the county also obtained an order to show cause to remove weapons from his home, caused multiple police agencies to go to his home and caused him to go to court in connection with an order to remove his weapons.
“The actions of the county and its employees caused claimant significant mental distress, embarrassment, humiliation, lost income and lost benefits,” the claim states.
Gallup would be seeking $500,000 in damages. The notice of claim against the county is dated Dec. 22.
The Unified Communications Center saved municipalities a total of about $1 million in 2015, according to the county.
The city of Schenectady saved $399,610 on dispatch operations compared to 2013, the county says. Other savings: $242,639 for Rotterdam; $216,080 for Glenville; and $149,141 for Niskayuna.
The savings were calculated by taking the difference of the costs for dispatch before the UCC and with the UCC factoring in a 2 percent growth rate per year. Included in the savings is a one-time refund due to a budget surplus.
For example, Schenectady spent a total of $1,903,567 in 2013 for its own dispatch center. Factoring in a 2 percent growth rate, the county estimates the city would have spent $1,980,471 in 2015.
Instead of the projected $1,980,471 in 2015, the city paid a total of $1,728,205 with the UCC, according to city Finance Commissioner Deborah DeGenova. That’s a savings of $252,266.
On top of that, the city received a $213,448 refund check from the county. Total savings for the city came in lower though at $399,610 due to a difference in retirement, county spokesman Joe McQueen said.
The one-time refund is from a $455,017 surplus in the 2015 UCC budget, which was due to a nearly $200,000 grant along with retirement costs and other savings, McQueen said.
City Councilman Vince Riggi said he is skeptical of the savings because not all of the city’s dispatch employees were transferred to the UCC.
“In 2013 we had more employees,” he said. “So it kind of skews the facts. Is it a true savings? And that’s the thing. I don’t know. It’s confusing. If we transferred all of those jobs then it would be a better picture of if there are savings or not.”
Glenville Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he believes the 2015 savings are higher than expected in the future due to the one-time refund.
“The rebate would have been passed down to the towns and cities anyway,” he said. “In 2014 we proposed to the county that the 2015 budget be reduced to a normal level. We told them they should adjust their budget.”
He said Glenville also has one less dispatcher compared to 2013. He said municipalities, including the city, have additional costs to cover the services that dispatchers provided before the UCC.
“It’s hocus pocus,” Koetzle said. “We went down a dispatcher and we don’t grow at 2 percent. It’s grossly unfair. They’re using common core math for their budgeting and coming up with crazy things. It’s not real.”
Koetzle added that the UCC is understaffed and that overtime is high. Riggi said he has received complaints about service, like calls rolled over to Albany and dispatchers hanging up on police officers.
The Unified Communications Center on Hamburg Street in Rotterdam opened in May 2014. The center includes the city of Schenectady, Rotterdam, Glenville, Niskayuna, Duanesburg and Princetown.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.