By Seth Daniel
The entire Chelsea 911 dispatch team, backed by the presidents of the Fire Union and Patrolmen’s Union, announced at Monday’s City Council meeting they have voted ‘no confidence’ in their long-time manager Allan Alpert and his assistant Robert Verdone.
During the Public Speaking portion of the Council meeting on Monday, eight telecommunicators from 911 appeared and read a prepared statement outlining what they said were years of harassment and micromanagement by a management team that had no experience in 911 operations. The also announced a vote of ‘no confidence’ in management.
“We come to you this evening to ask for help,” read a member of the union. “To put it simply, we can no longer stand silently by and allow the management of our department to continue their long standing practices of harassment, bullying, second guessing, interrogation, and blatant disregard for the well-being of this group to continue. We are dejected, demoralized and quite frankly, despite the combined 184 years of service that we have given this City, we now detest coming in to work…Our supervisors, Director Alpert and Assistant Director Verdone are not, nor have they ever been, 911 dispatchers for this City…Despite not knowing how to do all this, we are constantly critiqued, reprimanded, second guessed and told that we are in the wrong at an alarming rate…We, the dispatchers of Chelsea 911, in a unanimous vote, have no confidence in the abilities of Director Allan Alpert and Assistant Director Robert Verdone to adequately supervise, manage and retain the highly skilled communications professionals that make up our group. We fear the culture of harassment and bullying will continue unchecked without our speaking up…”
Alpert was not able to be present at the meeting to hear the critique due to it being a Jewish high holiday, but even had it not been, he said later he was “blindsided” by the action.
“I was totally blindsided when I got a report on the presentation Monday night,” Alpert said on Wednesday morning in a phone interview. “I have not heard any complaints at all with our union steward with regard to emergency operations or being bullied. We have strong and stringent ethics on workplace situations. To bully somebody here is a very serious charge. No one has complained to Human Resources, the City Manager or me.”
He said he respects the work of the telecommunicators, but indicated they may not understand all the requirements and mandates put on his office by the state.
“I have all the respect in the world for our 911 telecommunicators,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t understand the difference between management and operations. Our job is to ensure the delivery of service. Sometimes in this business or any other business, the labor side has a different opinion of what they should be doing. On the labor side, they don’t know our requirements and what is mandated from us. We’re constantly getting updates from fire and police and state 911 for things we have to do.”
Said Verdone, “We maintain an open door policy and anyone can come talk to us in confidence at any time.”
Said Alpert, “They don’t always understand everything we do and obviously it’s had a negative effect on operations. But no one has ever approached us to tell us this was a problem. We were blindsided.”
However, the powerful Fire Union and Police Patrolmen’s Union were on hand Monday night to back up the 911 dispatchers, and had some very powerful words in opposition to Alpert’s management.
“We stand in support of the 911 dispatchers,” said Brian Capistran, president of the Firefighter’s Union. “The (manager and assistant manager) may see this no confidence vote as a medal of honor…You on the Council should be very concerned about what you just heard…I’ve been up here many times and told not to get involved in daily operations. This is a problem. You were elected to be a voice. This is when you have to be that voice. It’s not who is playing on what field or someone who has dumped trash on Grove Street. These are the issues you should pay attention to…If they’re not safe, we’re not safe. We hope you will ask City Manager Ambrosino to look into it and have an investigation.”
Mark O’Connor, president of the Police Patrolmen’s Union, said his membership also supports the dispatchers.
“I’m here out of loyalty to the dispatchers,” he said. “I’m also here out of concern…I think you should take this seriously.”
The dispatchers added that they hoped the Council would look into the actions of Alpert and Verdone.
“We ask this Council to look into these actions, inactions, expenditures and operations of this department and assist us with a solution that will allow us to continue to serve, which is all we want to do,” read the letter. “We are not seeking monetary compensation, more benefits nor staffing increase, just the ability to do our job unhindered…”