Editor's note: This story was corrected at 1:58 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2017. A previous version incorrectly identified the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
GLOVERSVILLE -- Three employees of the Gloversville Housing Authority who were placed on unpaid leave in January have returned to work.
Tina Sena, Linda Lizio and Janet Luck have all returned to their posts as account clerks in the authority’s main office at Dubois Gardens. A fourth employee who was also placed on unpaid leave, maintenance worker Joe Battaglia, had previously returned to work, said housing authority board chair Michael Ponticello at the board’s Feb. 16 meeting.
The employees were placed on unpaid leave by housing authority executive director Timothy Mattice in early January, after nine of the authority's 11 employees signed a letter to the board in late-December accusing Mattice of creating a hostile work environment and of a host of ethical improprieties.
Mattice placed the employees on leave after news of the letter broke, but he denied the move was retaliatory. He said the three women were disciplined for exposing confidential information in the letter and for failing to follow the authority’s grievance process. Battaglia, Mattice said in January, was disciplined for being disrespectful and defiant when called in to discuss the letter.
Mattice did not return a request for comment Wednesday, but the employees’ return was confirmed by two other sources.
Ron Briggs, president of the Capital District Civil Service Employees Association, said Sena, Lizio and Luck were allowed to return to their jobs Tuesday. Briggs is in negotiations with the board and its labor attorney over establishing union representation for Housing Authority employees.
The negotiations are centered on whether the board will recognize the employees as unionized, and Briggs said he’s confident a majority of the employees want the CSEA to represent them.
“The settlement is close. They just brought them back in anticipation that this will be resolved,” said Briggs. “As long as everything goes smoothly, it should be done by the end of February."
The board’s labor attorney, Bryan Goldberger of Goldberger & Kremer, also said an agreement is close. The two sides must first negotiate on the board's recognition of the employees as unionized. Then, contract negotiations can begin, he said.
Ponticello, the authority board chair, did not return a request for comment on the employees' return.
Meanwhile, the employees’ letter is still causing headaches for Mattice and the board. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating some of the allegations laid out in the letter against Mattice, particularly the assertion that he hired his brother as a painter at the authority in contravention of affordable housing regulations. Mattice has denied any wrongdoing.
Residents have also been dissatisfied with the board and Mattice’s performance, citing long-running concerns over maintenance, security and bedbugs in the authority’s buildings, but relations between the board and residents seem to be improving. At the authority's Feb. 16 meeting, some residents thanked the board for progress that’s been made in those areas, a stark contrast to meetings in January that were marked more by antipathy from residents toward the board.