State workers union board fires director
MONTPELIER — Trustees for the union representing Vermont state employees have voted to fire the labor group’s executive director, its president said Thursday.
Vermont State Employees’ Association President John Reese said trustees voted 10-6 on Wednesday to fire Mark Mitchell as executive director after allegations — which Reese would not disclose — were raised about Mitchell. Reese said he disagreed with the firing and voted against it.
“I hope that in the near future we can reverse (Mitchell’s firing) or at least conduct a formal investigation so we make sure we have all the facts and he’s not being deprived of his due-process rights,” Reese said.
He said the trustees have scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday and that the union council, which has about 130 members and is scheduled to meet Tuesday, could reverse the trustees’ action if two-thirds of those voting support doing so.
Reached on his cellphone Thursday as he traveled to Quebec City, Mitchell said he had not been told specifically what the allegations against him were. He said the trustees excluded him and other staff from a nearly daylong executive session Wednesday, and that’s when the action was taken.
“I can tell you I haven’t done anything wrong,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that during the executive session, a member of the board, Thomas Hango, came into his office and asked for his resignation, which he declined to offer. Hango then told him the board had voted to terminate him, Mitchell said.
He asked for an explanation and was later given a letter “saying I was in breach of my employment contract. I asked what was the nature of the breach, and (Hango) said he couldn’t say,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the union representing state workers would not accept such a summary dismissal by the state of one of its members.
“A state worker would never be treated with so little due process and in such a dismissive manner, Mitchell said. “It’s an unfortunate irony.”
Union spokesman Doug Gibson said the union was “not going to comment on a confidential personnel matter,” adding, “I can confirm (Mitchell) is no longer employed at VSEA.”
Reese said the union had been trying to become more aggressive about organizing and meeting with workers, as well as more democratic, since his election as president two years ago. Mitchell joined VSEA in December 2011 after working as a senior negotiator in San Francisco with the California Nurses’ Association.
“There is a faction — I guess that’s a fair way to put it — that’s not necessarily on board with the changing direction of the organization itself,” Reese said.
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