Several employees were reluctant to share their stories with The Hackensack Scoop out of the fear of retaliation. Others kept detailed diaries of their encounters and shared them under the promise of anonymity.
A common thread through all of the stories shared were that Councilman Battaglia and Councilman Sims often appear at work sites and city garages to do unannounced "inspections" of the work that is being performed--"sometimes they sit in their cars and watch us for as long as an hour, other times they have come into the garages or up to us in the parks and confronted us," one employee said.
|One employee shared this pictures with me. He says that Councilmen Battaglia and Sims sat in this van for over an hour in the middle of a field watching the men work.|
|One employee took this picture. He says that Councilman Sims regularly visited the parks at times the parks were not in use to "check up" on what the workers were doing.|
|One worker says that Councilman Sims criticized the way he set up this event and rearranged these chairs.|
Councilman Battaglia Wants More SoccerOne employee went on to tell me of an afternoon in mid-August when he was reapplying spray painted lines to the field at Johnson Park. "The field is lined with white, yellow, and blue lines so that the field can be used by both the soccer and field hockey programs," the worker explained. Councilman Battaglia instructed the worker to not reapply blue lines, only the white and yellow ones because, "the white and yellow lines are used for soccer, the field hockey program should only be using the fields at the high school." The worker resisted, but ultimately gave in to the councilman's demand. A few days later he was reprimanded when a phone call came from High School Athletic Director, Dave Petrella, requesting that the lines be reapplied because the school had a permit to use the fields and was unable to do so without the proper field lining.
The theme of needing more fields for soccer is common in many of the worker's interactions with Battaglia. Despite criticizing the use of overtime by the parks department, Battaglia allegedly ordered employees to (on overtime) line and install fencing around a previously open field, as pictured below. Lights are said to have been installed around this field today.
One employee told me that Battaglia has pressured the men out of the municipal greenhouse and ordered that the heat and water be turned off. When I asked why he would allegedly do such a thing, they responded "the big soccer bubble." They explained that Battaglia has grand visions of a "20 plus million dollar indoor soccer stadium" being erected on the land where the greenhouse stands. The employee says Battaglia has exclaimed "nobody and I mean nobody is stopping me from taking that greenhouse down." The employee went on to tell me that Councilman Battaglia has now attempted to lay claim to space in the parks department garage to store personal equipment for his soccer program.
The employees had similar encounters with Councilman Sims. One employee recalls a day when Councilman Sims approached him and demanded that the infield dimensions be altered on certain fields in Foschini Park. When the worker explained that he previously agreed with the recreation program that he would remove grass, apply clay, and then rake and line the fields, in the Fall, Sims pushed back. The employee asked Sims to submit a request so that a work order would be issued but he recounts that he was handed a business card that identified Mr. Sims and was told "this is all you need."
Councilman Sims Monitors Garbage CansOne employee recounts how Mr. Sims monitors the garbage cans in the parks and accuses the employees of not emptying the cans frequently enough. The employee recounts a day that Sims confronted two employees in Carver Park stating, "what's the matter, can't you empty the damn cans." He went on to describe the day that he was confronted next to a garbage can in Staib Park. Councilman Sims allegedly reached into the garbage can and pulled out a receipt that was dated a week earlier. Sims exclaimed that the garbage cans were to be emptied daily and this receipt was evidence that the employees were not doing their job adequately. The parks worker said he explained to the councilman that the garbage cans were emptied that very same day to which he was called, "a liar."
Councilman Battaglia Threatens PrivatizationThe employees went on to share their concerns regarding the threatened privatization of the Departments of Public Works and Sanitation. The employees said they have been told on a number of occasions such things as "you are replaceable by $10 an hour Mexicans." The employee said that Battaglia told the men "no one has lost their jobs yet, but the big guy [Troast] is coming and that is going to change." Battaglia allegedly asserted that Troast (the likely new hire for City Manager) will be exploring privatization of services and directly said he, "has the balls to do it." One worker advised me that as late as just today Battaglia advised the men that layoffs will be coming this winter.
A report from several parks workers that Battaglia has been using his wife (a municipal court administrator who was improperly given a $10,000 raise) to investigate motor vehicle and background records of several parks employees. When questioned about this at tonight's council meeting, Battaglia became irate. It is reported that Battaglia made inappropriate remarks about Board of Education Trustee Jason Nunnermacker who asked, and eventually almost came to blows with Former Municipal Prosecutor Richard Salkin.
When given the opportunity, Councilman Sims declined to comment for this article. A request for comment from Councilman Battaglia went unanswered.
This council has promised to put an end to costly lawsuits. It seems, however, that they have done nothing more than increase the number of employment related claims at a time when our insurance coverage has been reduced from $6,000,000 to $1,000,0000. The coverage for 2014 is already spoken for by the Weuste, Rottino, and Flanagan complaints. Moreover, no employee deserves to be treated in such a hostile manner. The residents of Hackensack are catered to by some of the finest parks and sanitation workers in the State of New Jersey, I wish for them a fair and hospitable work environment.